‘A Renouveau of English Prosody’ Rereading Swinburne’s Atalanta in Calydon

‘A Renouveau of English Prosody’ Rereading Swinburne’s Atalanta in Calydon THE HYPOTHESIS THAT A REASSESSMENT of Swinburne’s ‘Greekness’ must begin with a consideration of his versification may seem questionable to many. As critics such as Prins, McGann, Louis, Maxwell, and, more recently, Ribeyrol, Evangelista, and Polten have shown, Swinburne’s Hellenism provokes questions to do with gender, class, theology, and cosmopolitanism – why should we care about versification? Whether one chooses to approach the issue of Swinburne’s Hellenism through the lens of phenomenological, hermeneutical, structuralist or poststructuralist theories, or more recent cognitive or formalist approaches, one must still read it: prosody is as inevitable as reading. If prosody is as inescapable as reading, then all reading is necessarily subjective. It is for this reason that Douglas Oliver’s reading into ‘the machinery’ led to his revised definition of poetic stress as that which ‘arises from our conscious belief that we have, just recently, in a notional instant, unified some of our experience of a poem’s developing sounds’.1 Likewise for Clive Scott: ‘we may read the text in such a way as to try to preserve … a third-person experience, as someone else’s experience’. But ‘this is all but impossible’.2 The art critic Michael Baxandall describes how light reflected from the art object enters the eye, falls on the retina, and is conveyed by a series of nerves to the brain.3 After this, what the eye sees is no longer uniform. Instead: ‘That which we tend toward will depend on many things … but not least on the interpreting skills one happens to possess … what we may call one’s cognitive style’.4 What Baxandall says of painting could also be said – by analogy – of auditory perception. Yet to claim that reading is subjective is not to claim that it is merely individualistic. It has become a commonplace of recent neo-formalist approaches to claim that all readings are equally valid, but to say so overlooks the fact that all acts of reading are also communal in nature. Immanuel Kant pointed out that it is a quirk of aesthetic judgements that they are at once deeply subjective, yet we want to convince other people of our own experience. If aesthetic experiences are subjective, objective, and communal, then we can no longer avoid the question of competency, a daunting prospect in the case of Swinburne. Considered against this poet – fluent in four languages other than English (two of them dead), whose verse was paradoxically both classic and innovatory, yet whose Alexandrian attempt to conquer all forms promoted a level of stylistic self-awareness which was to prove unsustainable for the next generation of poets – Baxandall’s reconstruction of how the man or woman in the street experienced paintings in fifteenth century Italy comes to look almost easy. The question of a community of listeners for Swinburne’s verse is further complicated by the possibility – which here must remain just a hunch – that a reader listening to poetry before the advent of free verse, which emphasised very different parts of the repertoire, may listen differently to readers now. Yet there are several basic continuities between 1865 and the present which might give us courage: the linguistic-prosodic capacities of the English language remain largely the same; our ability to encounter and reflect on how a poem works is not so markedly different; and our ability to discern similarities and differences in technique between poems and poets across periods lies at the centre of our critical practice. A belief in these continuities informs the criticism of George Saintsbury, whose History of English Prosody seeks to understand each poet’s place within what he calls the ‘life-history of English verse’.5 This emphasis on Englishness has left him open to accusations of a less than savoury English nationalism.6 Yet Saintsbury shares with Swinburne a working knowledge of the radical discontinuities between Greek and English prosodic systems, and an intuitive sense of the inadequacy of foot scansion in its application to English verse. Furthermore, Saintsbury’s reading of Atalanta proves enabling in three respects: first, the subjective-objective nature of aesthetic judgements – what he calls, elsewhere, a process of ‘correcting impressions’ – drives him to share his own encounter in detail, yet his evaluation of Swinburne’s play assumes no authority other than that of a lifetime spent within a community of readers, comparing and contrasting different kinds of English verse (History, iii. 515). While Saintsbury’s authority in this regard is overwhelming, the assumption is that anyone can do it. Second, his argument that Atalanta is an English poem, which must be understood within an English tradition, does not require the ‘true, classically trained, public school educated, elite English ear’ that Meredith Martin identifies, but only reasonable literacy in the English language.7 Both these impulses assume community. Lastly, reading Atalanta requires him to acknowledge the inadequacy of foot scansion as a tool for interpretation – an admission which suggests that, at times, ‘reading scanningly’ can be at odds with one’s actual encounter. Reading Atalanta, three aspects of my encounter with this poem remain. First, a sense of enormous cumulative rhythmic power, working between and across two very different modes. Second, a punctum – to borrow Roland Barthes’s term for the detail in a photograph which catches the eye – around the line in the fourth chorus in which the chorus declares the utter helplessness of human beings under the sway of ‘The supreme evil, God’. Third, a sense – immensely difficult to describe – that the play’s exposure of the cruelty of the gods resides less in what the characters say about them, or what the drama shows, than in the sense of an ineluctable force, coursing through the words of the play, which gradually overcomes each of the speakers – so much so that Swinburne’s rhythm comes to figure, on reflection, as a kind of fate. Is this just my own fantasy? The reading record suggests not. Though Swinburne’s prosody must remain a mystery for Harold Nicolson, I recognise something in his description of: Rhythm in the meticulous balance and correlation of each part, in the cadenced transitions from the major to the minor key, in the continuous processional movement of the main choruses. And music, passionate, unrestrained, and haunting, in every line and lyric, as if the whole action were accompanied by the throb of hidden flutes – as if, in truth, the essential unity of the drama were a lyric unity, a latent and continuous hymn to Dionysus.8 Likewise, Samuel Chew’s admission that ‘Under the hypnotic spell of the swift bright choruses and surging blank verse some readers have confessed their inability to follow the story’ sums up my own experience of listening to Swinburne’s choruses.9 Richard Mathews and Margot K. Louis both suggest that there are two styles in Atalanta, one that Louis calls ‘soothing’ and ‘rational’, and a second that ‘expresses hostility, division, and pain more frankly, with a frightening lyrical view’.10 This view is perhaps too schematic, yet it is an apt response to the range and associated effects of Swinburne’s style – from lyrical to rhetorical. And yet, while it seems that few readers can pass over its prosodic power, there has – since Saintsbury – been almost no sustained enquiry into how Swinburne’s poem achieves such powerful effects. The challenge of doing so was set out by Nicolson in 1926: it is ‘impossible’ to explain the final ‘effect’ of Swinburne’s play by analysis or quotation, since the poem is ‘cumulative’ and ‘organic’: each part is dependent on the whole, and in the final kommos the harmonies and rhythms which have crossed and re-crossed each other in a subtle interchange throughout the poem are gathered together in the vast symphonic summary, and the whole purport and beauty of the drama is disclosed.11 Nicolson provides a technical analysis of the play to claim that, structurally at least, Atalanta conforms to the model of Greek tragedy, an argument that is also made by Marion Weir, C. M. Bowra, and Alan P. Barr.12 Georges Lafourcade’s attempt to analyse the chorus of Atalanta presents the only attempt at large-scale metrical analysis, an enquiry that was largely abandoned after 1928.13 More recently, Orla Polten has argued for the influence of Euripides, drawing new links between the metre of the epigraph of Atalanta and Andromache, which she also detects in the play’s final kommos.14 However, none of these arguments seek to understand how Swinburne’s verse achieves its powerful effects. Instead, responses tend to fall back on what this play demonstrates about Swinburne’s universe: for Herbert Tucker, Atalanta reveals Swinburne’s ‘creed’: ‘Ever since the first great chorus of Atalanta in Calydon, for Swinburne one thing has not just followed another but has hunted it down and preyed on it’.15 No other poem by Swinburne (with the exception, perhaps, of ‘The Triumph of Time’) has provoked such soul-searching: Thomas Wymer finds in Atalanta ‘an unorthodox affirmation of life’.16 For Robert Mathews it ‘depicts the yearning of the human soul for unity through love’.17 Katie Paterson prefers to read Atalanta ‘through the bleakness of Schopenhauer’.18 Further readings reinterpret the story through the lens of mythic, semiotic, feminist, and psychoanalytical theory. Edward Thomas, appearing as a character in Jerome McGann’s dialogue, Swinburne: An Experiment in Criticism, attempts to intervene to revisit the question of Swinburne’s technique: ‘You talk about this work as if it were a play and not fundamentally a poem. But surely it exerts its greatest force at the lyrical level …?’19 However, despite this attempt to reorientate discussion, McGann’s claim for Swinburne’s lyrical power is never fully instantiated with regard to technique. Thomas quotes the opening chorus to ‘illustrate how Swinburne works his language’, and observes its ‘exquisite pace’. Yet Atalanta is ultimately valued for its triumphant vision of how, ‘Turned upon the wheel of change, men yet achieve a nobility beyond the reach, perhaps beyond even the conception … of the changeless gods’.20 If Jerome McGann is right, that ‘the great prosodic scholar George Saintsbury was one of the last to have a clear grasp of what Swinburne’s work involved and how it was announced’, then we might do well to reconsider his estimate of ‘that epoch-making book’ Atalanta in Calydon.21 As Saintsbury reminds us: Those who read Atalanta when it came out had no lack of ‘aged’ horses of the very first class to try it by… But in the Atalanta choruses there was nothing in the least imitative of either of these poets, and there was a quality which Tennyson had seldom displayed, and which Browning … did not often employ in his best lyrics – the quality of speed … ‘When the hounds of Spring are on Winter’s traces’ made an actual renouveau of English prosody, and sent a fresh pack of verse-hounds, bounding and doubling … through wood and over field of the poetic country. (History, iii. 335) Reading the chorus of Atalanta, Saintsbury is able to take in the whole of the English prosodic tradition. Swinburne, ‘indisputably at the head of the choir of the poets of our days’, is cast as the pupil turned maestro (History, iii. 334). His second book presents a pivotal moment in the history of English poetry. The word ‘renouveau’, which Saintsbury uses to describe the movement of the first choral song, puns on this ‘terme encore usité … mais qui vieillit’ for ‘La saison nouvelle, le printemps’.22 However, the word can also mean ‘renaissance’ in the sense of a spiritual or artistic renewal. Yet Saintsbury’s argument that Atalanta is an English poem appears to run contrary, not only to the critical endeavour to establish Swinburne’s ‘Greekness’, but also to Swinburne’s own description of his work in an early letter to Lady Trevelyan. Here he explains the thought and form of his poem, largely composed during the period of his sister Edith’s illness and death:23 In spite of the funereal circumstances which I suspect have a little deepened the natural colours of Greek fatalism here and there, so as to have already incurred a charge of ‘rebellious antagonism’ and such-like things, I never enjoyed anything more in my life than the composition of this poem … I think it is pure Greek, and the first poem of the sort in modern times, combining lyric and dramatic work on the old principle. Shelley’s Prometheus is magnificent and un-Hellenic, spoilt too in my mind by the infusion of philanthropic doctrinaire views and ‘progress of the species’; and by what I gather from Lewes’ life of Goethe the Iphigenia in Tauris must be also impregnated with modern morals and feelings. As for Professor Arnold’s Merope, the clothes are well enough, but where has the body gone? So I thought and still think the field was clear for me.24 Swinburne’s assertion that his tragedy is ‘pure Greek’ is difficult to construe. He admits that he may have ‘deepened the natural colours of Greek fatalism’, yet his conscious distancing of his ‘views’ from Shelley and Goethe is, he claims, closer to the Greek. As his use of the Carlylean analogy between thought and form as body and clothes suggests, this ‘Greek’ attitude cannot be divorced from style. In comparison, Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound is ‘unhellenic’, and the verse of Arnold’s Merope has lost touch with antique ‘morals and feelings’. Swinburne’s desire to ‘combin[e] lyric and dramatic work on the old principle’ appears to claim affinity with tragic drama. However, if we consider his remarks in more detail, it becomes apparent that he is not claiming to have written a ‘Greek’ poem in such a way as to invite arguments for and against. Instead, I want to suggest, his insistence that his play is ‘pure Greek’ might be better understood as originating in the same humour in which Friedrich Nietzsche, in an early lecture, wryly remarks that: ‘I fear that we do not understand these Greeks in a sufficiently Greek way’.25 Consider Swinburne’s exchange with his friend Lord Houghton, which followed the latter’s review of Atalanta in the Edinburgh Review. Full of praise for Swinburne’s prosodic achievement, Houghton cannot finally accept the thought of the play as ‘Greek’. Even the Prometheus of Aeschylus, he argues, will not provide an acceptable example for man’s defiance of the gods, since Prometheus is a god and not a man.26 It is crucial to place Swinburne’s response against Houghton’s criticism, as it demonstrates the idiosyncrasies of Swinburne’s view of ‘Greekness’. His reply is written, as is typical of his correspondence with Houghton, in the character of a petulant schoolboy to his master: One birch-twig I hereby pull out of the bloody bundle. As to my quantities and metre and rule of rhythm and rhyme, I defy castigation. The head master has sent me up for good on that score. Mr. Tennyson tells me in a note that he ‘envies me’ my gift that way … The moral and religious question I give up at once. I let down my breeches, pull up my shirt, and kneel down … Only don’t say with my old friend of the Spectator that it isn’t Greek – because it is.27 Swinburne’s riposte suggests that he is using the adjective ‘Greek’ in a particular, qualified way. His insistence on the quality of his verse argues that any attempt to understand this assumed heritage must begin with his style. However, his admission that he has not been entirely faithful to the ‘moral and religious’ aspects of Greek tragic drama suggests a claim to Greek heritage that cannot be taken as factual. Swinburne never read Nietzsche. William Rutland affirms that as to ‘German … he knew not a word, and was consequently inclined rather to belittle all things Teutonic, and even all things Germanic’.28 However, this has not discouraged critics from making the connection.29 Their shared interest in the music of Wagner, for example, and their passionate dislike of the plays of Euripides – for which Swinburne claimed he had Benjamin Jowett’s approval – suggest similar tastes.30 So there may be good grounds for comparing Swinburne’s argument for Atalanta as ‘pure Greek’ with Nietzsche’s early arguments about the value of the classics in his Untimely Meditations: It is only to the extent that I am a pupil of earlier times, especially the Hellenic, that though a child of the present time I was able to acquire such untimely experiences … I do not know what meaning classical philology could have for our time if it was not untimely – that is to say, acting counter to our time and thereby acting on our time and, let us hope, for the benefit of time to come.31 For Nietzsche a ‘pure[ly] Greek’ idea was the result, not of philological excavation, but of a critical philology, which understood the thought and rhythm of classical texts in untimely ways: what drives Nietzsche is not just the question of how the Greeks thought about the divine and made their poems, but also how we might think about the divine and make poems now. It is in this untimely sense that I understand Swinburne’s claim that the prosody of Atalanta is ‘pure Greek’. Taken in this way, Saintsbury’s claim for Atalanta as a renouveau, or rebirth, is exactly right. Saintsbury would have understood that Swinburne’s insistence that his poem was ‘pure Greek’ was not to be taken literally. ‘No metre’, he argues in his discussion of Richard Dixon’s Mano, ‘is the same in any two languages: most, if not all, metres are absolutely different in any two languages’ (History, iii. 362-3). However, it is Swinburne’s preface to his translation of the Grand Chorus from Aristophanes’ The Birds that confirms Saintsbury’s conviction of the impossibility of rendering Greek into English. Swinburne’s comments on this point were enthusiastically supported by Saintsbury, who dedicates a considerable amount of attention in his History to this ‘very rare and specially precious vouchsafing of a directly prosodic note’ that: [Aristophanes’] marvellous metrical invention of the anapaestic heptameter is almost exactly reproducible in a language to which all variations and combinations of anapaestic, iambic or trochaic metre are as natural and as pliable as all dactylic and spondaic forms of verse are unnatural and abhorrent. (History, iii. 352) The truth about English prosody which Swinburne has hit upon is in fact a very basic one: since English prosody is characterised simultaneously by the principle of stress-timing and the principle of syllable-timing, the distribution of the ictus is flexible. Stress can be distributed alternately across syllables, as in duple verse. However, it can also be distributed after every second unstressed syllable – as in triple verse – and even, very rarely, after every third syllable – as in a third paeonic (for which see Swinburne’s parody ‘The Higher Pantheism in a Nutshell’). According to Derek Attridge, a run of four unstressed syllables seems to be the limit-point of English isochrony, since after this a mediate stress will be employed to ensure the rhythm continues to be perceptible. Swinburne’s prefatory note was enough to convince Saintsbury that Swinburne knew more about English prosody than most ‘preceptists’. Yet far from being a cause for dismay, the incommensurability of Greek and English prosody brings with it a renewed sense of the capacities and limits of the English language. Indeed, Swinburne’s sense of the difference between English and Greek prosodic systems originates, not from precepts, but from his own training, reading, and practice, as can be seen from the discussions of the Old Mortality Society – the Balliol College debating group of which Swinburne was an early member – in the late 1850s. In an undergraduate review of Matthew Arnold’s Greek tragedy Merope, published in the group’s magazine Undergraduate Papers, Swinburne’s friend John Nichol criticises Matthew Arnold for his failure to write sufficiently ‘English’ choruses: whatever be the place of lyrical effusions on the stage, there is one requisite which attaches to them above all other sorts of composition; they must be natural. To be so they must be written, said, or sung in the verse natural to the language in which they are expressed. Translation is not the mere transference of words from one tongue to another: a good translation is one which produces the same effect on the reader as that which is produced by the original. Measures as well as words are in so far matters of language, and vary in their effect according as they are married to Greek, Latin or English verse … Iambics and the more irregular Hellenic metres do not exist in our tongue. Mr. Arnold has done well to adopt blank verse both in ‘Balder’ and ‘Merope’ as his heroic line; he has failed in his adaptations of the chorus.32 Of course, Arnold’s own view is not so different from that of Nichol. As he explained in his preface to Merope, ‘what I have done is to try to follow rhythms which produced on my own feeling a similar impression to that produced on it by the rhythms of Greek choric poetry’. The difference is not so much in theory, then, than in the practice. For Arnold, since no equivalent English metres exist: ‘He … is drawn to invent new measures, whether he will or no’.33 For Nichol, Arnold has taken a wrong step, since native metres already exist. Swinburne would have had both Nichol’s views on Arnold and his own verse practice in mind when writing ‘Matthew Arnold’s New Poems’, an essay published nine years after Merope and two years after the success of Atalanta. His comments offer further insights for thinking about what a ‘pure Greek’ style in English might involve.34 In two respects, Swinburne agrees with Nichol and Arnold: absolute translation is a ‘hopeless’ task and ‘realis[ing]’ the musical force of Greek tragedy is ‘hard’. Yet ‘the laws of the choral scheme’ must still be obeyed. It would be a contradiction, having just declared translation to be an impossibility, to mean by ‘laws’ the actual metrical schema of Greek choruses. Therefore we must conclude that, for Swinburne, English prosody is its own resource. Saintsbury’s understanding that Atalanta presents a renewal of English poetry, and should be read as such, receives further confirmation once we consider the resistance of Swinburne’s prosody to a system of scansion designed for another language. Georges Lafourcade concludes that: ‘the choruses of Swinburne are completely irregular, or merely repeat several times the same shape in a series of identical stanzas, as sometimes happens with the Greeks in some songs of actors, but never in the actual chorus’.35 While the perception of a mixture of feet suggests that he has perceived the pliability that elicited such praise from Saintsbury, this variety can only be seen as a fault once viewed through the prism of classical scansion; and attempts to make sense of the prosody of Atalanta through the prism of classical scansion remain incomplete or unconvincing.36 However, the most compelling case for reading Atalanta as an English poem is made by Saintsbury who, though committed to classical foot scansion, had to seek another name to describe what he was hearing in Swinburne’s verse: I have commented, in more places than one or two of this prosodic history, on instances of karole – of the continuous dancing measure that picks up the movement from stanza to stanza in a sort of endless chain, and maintains this movement, of dance not of pace, throughout. … Schematically it is nothing more than ‘long measure’ with the odd lines double-rhymed hyper-catalectically. But, by working on the fact that this additional syllable gives a trochaic ‘throw-back’ throughout the line, and by marvellous management of the occasional substitution of anapaests, the poet actually keeps the three balls of iambic, trochaic, and anapaestic rhythm in the air all at the same time. (History, iii. 347) This analysis of ‘At a Month’s End’, from Poems and Ballads: Third Series, is the closest we ever get to a definition of karole. Although Saintsbury uses terminology taken from classical foot scansion to describe this form, this is utterly undone by the effect he is describing, since the overwhelming impression is of a rhythm composed of iambic, trochaic, and anapaestic feet all at once.37 That Saintsbury had this particular ‘measure’ in mind when writing about Atalanta is suggested in his footnotes, but also by his description of how Swinburne’s verse-hounds go ‘bounding and doubling’.38 This identification of the Atalanta chorus with the karole measure has consequences for how we choose to read, since, in identifying how the chorus of Atalanta exceeds foot scansion, Saintsbury appears to have anticipated Derek Attridge’s description of the English dol’nik by a century.39 For this reason, in talking about Swinburne’s verse, it makes much more sense to talk of duple and triple rhythm than to refer to ‘anapaests’, ‘iambs’, and ‘trochees’. Saintsbury’s remarks about the karole also point towards something larger about the structure of Atalanta. The play alternates between two metrical sets: the five-beat heroic line for the drama and dialogue, and the four-beat line (or karole) of the chorus. Shifts between metrical sets will always produce a strong impression. However, in placing these two particular metrical sets side by side, Swinburne has tapped a particularly English metrical tension, perhaps best captured by Attridge’s description of five-beat duple verse as an ‘evasion’ of the ‘stronger, and probably more fundamental, rhythmic principle’ he associates with four-beat triple verse. As Attridge notes: the ease with which the four-beat pattern is established means that it is sometimes experienced as a kind of sub-rhythm in the pentameter, imparting a little of its rhythmic insistence to the gentler line … But this is not to say that the four-beat rhythm is part of the pentameter’s structure, as has sometimes been claimed … it is precisely because the writer is free to make use of it as he wishes, or to avoid all suggestions of it, that it is a valuable rhythmic resource in five-beat verse.40 A better description of the basic prosodic principle of Atalanta in Calydon could not be found. From the opening line, readers are caught in a struggle between the four-beat, triple, insistent, catatonic obscurity of the chorus, which is forever threatening to overwhelm the five-beat, duple, crystal-clear speech-like rhythms of the dialogue. Once we connect this rediscovery of a native English tension to Swinburne’s claim for Atalanta as the ‘first poem of the sort in modern times, combining lyric and dramatic work on the old principle’, it becomes clear how Atalanta is placed in an established English tradition. For as Swinburne notes, in his letter to Lady Trevelyan and in his essay on Arnold: the construction of Greek plays in English on the basis of a tension between a four-beat lyric chorus and blank verse dialogue is in evidence in Milton’s Samson Agonistes, Landor’s Dramatic Sketches, Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound, and Arnold’s Empedocles at Etna – a tradition, by 1865, so established as to form a recognisable sub-genre. Yet Swinburne was never content to simply imitate his models. How should we understand Swinburne’s innovation in Atalanta? First, he divides the two metrical sets and the kinds of attention they promote into two discrete functions. He then allows the four-beat triple rhythm to interfere with the blank verse at precise moments. However, crucially, this split is also linked to two forms of attention: we ‘hear’ some things loud and clear, other things less so. There is a gathering sense of unease surrounding the half-heard content of the choral song. This song becomes gradually more audible as the play continues. To talk of a ‘sub-rhythm’ imparting rhythmic insistence is a flawed yet useful way to talk about what we undergo in the fourth choral ode. In this lies the secret of one of the most charged moments in the poem. However, in order to understand the force of this moment, we first need to understand the way in which – as Nicolson puts it – the metrical sets ‘cross and re-cross each other’. Swinburne’s combination of ‘lyric and dramatic work on an old principle’ is initially navigable in terms of a division between four-beat lines for the chorus and five-beat lines for the dialogue, a split in metrical set that is also experienced as a split between two modes of attending. We hear the chief huntsman’s prayer to Artemis, the mortal goddess, to grant the hunting of the boar ravaging Calydon success; but it takes serious effort to offer a summary of the first choral song, which celebrates the elapse of seasons in a ceaseless cycle of violence. We grasp the debate between Althæa and the chorus concerning the unjust nature of the gods, but we do not register the chorus’s apparent celebration of Althæa’s vision in the song ‘Before the Beginning of Years’, which seems an outworking of her previous argument of the futility of prayer: Night a black hound, follows the white fawn day, Swifter then dreams the white flown feet of sleep; Will ye pray back the night with any prayers?41 If Swinburne’s poem could be said to have characters – in the sense of individuals with a believable internal life – we might argue that there is something amiss here. The chorus affirms the power of prayer in its dialogue, yet in the interlude sings of the inevitability of grief, suffering, and death. That this contradiction entirely fails to register is evidence of the relative obscurity of Swinburne’s first two choruses. Robert Browning reputedly called Atalanta a ‘fuzz of words’.42 Ruskin writes of the poet ‘foam[ing] at the mouth’.43 Edmund Burne-Jones was more sensitive, describing how the rhythm ‘goes on with such a rush that it is enough to carry the world away’.44 This effect continued to trouble readers of Swinburne. Maurice Bowra writes that, ‘When we first read Atalanta, we may hardly notice the plot or the thought behind it, so overwhelming is the effect of the words, so strange the impression which they make’.45 Edward Thomas was far more candid: Atalanta, on first reading, ‘can hardly have been interesting, though it contains an interesting story which is probably revealed to the majority of readers by the [foregoing] argument alone’. However, Thomas qualifies this quip with an observation: ‘This story is obliterated by the form of a Greek drama, by abundant lyrics … by an exuberance and individuality of language which could not always transmit instantaneously a definite meaning. But the obscurity is not one of incompetence’.46 Emerging from the second choral song, we follow the debate between Meleager and his mother Althæa, on the nature of law – whether god-given or customary – and the affront to custom which Atalanta, as a maiden huntress who rejects love and motherhood, presents. Throughout the first half of Swinburne’s play, the ‘obscurity’ associated with the four-beat, triple verse of the choruses is ‘enchased’ – to borrow Swinburne’s description of the choruses of Empedocles at Etna – within the blank verse. The result is a perception of two styles: the song metre associated with the chorus, and the blank verse associated with the dialogue. Yet there is also a gradual, gathering sense of unease surrounding the half-heard content of the choral song. This begins to register around the third choral ode. The theme of the chorus’s song is, appropriately, love. However, this is no celebratory song, for in the allegory ‘love’ is accompanied by a young married couple called ‘fate’ and ‘death’. The reader who has been fighting to attend to the content of the chorus’s songs might well feel a sense of foreboding. However, the queasiness we feel on reading these lines has as much to do with what the chorus sings as it has with the way it sings it. The design of this choral ode falls into two stages. Following the blank verse dialogue section, we encounter ten extremely regular triple five-beat lines. This metre is odd. Following this, the four-beat line takes over and we slip back into the much faster, familiar metrical schema of ‘Before the Beginning of Years’, in which there are four beats per line, the last unrealised, and a strong tendency towards triple rhythm. But not before the oddness of the triple pentameter has had a chance to register (Poems, iv. 273-4). If we were initially unsure whether what we were hearing was a triple five-beat line or a combination of two four-beat lines, syntax will right us: there is no tendency to mark a central caesura with an off-beat, and the punctuation, especially in the first line, encourages regular runs of unstressed syllables. The four-beat line more usually associated with triple rhythm does eventually take over again. However, this does not cancel the sense that – for the first ten lines of the choral ode – we are pitched between two modes of attention. It is here that we realise, retrospectively, that the perception of two metrical sets was dependent on a third condition: that they should remain separate. By forcing the five-beat duple line towards triple rhythm while simultaneously holding open the line long enough for the swift four-beat line to become saddled with an extra beat, Swinburne pitches us between chorus and dialogue modes. Yet this breach of local expectations is only a partial explanation for the effect of this line. It is at this point that the different forms of attention mentioned above come into play at a conscious level: at the same time that we feel the clarity of blank verse slipping away, the chorus begins to sing a chant that explores the idea of love as pain. Since it follows Althæa’s speech to Meleager in which she counsels him against Atalanta, the chorus’s connection of love with fate and death constitutes a warning. We might therefore expect a little more clarity in the delivery. However, the metre now snaps back towards the more rhythmically insistent four-beat line, like the sound of waters closing around one’s head. Yet for a brief moment the triple five-beat line does achieve a counterpointing of these two previously opposite modes of attention. By allowing the more song-like triple rhythm, which we half-associate with violence, to appear in the five-beat line, which we associate with speech and dialogue, Swinburne succeeds in producing a new expectation: that the two different metrical modes experienced might not be so incommensurable. Viewed retrospectively, the third choral ode can appear pivotal. In the intervening third episode, the hunters prepare to leave. Althæa’s brothers Toxeus and Plexippus debate the transgressiveness of Atalanta joining them in pursuit of the boar ravaging Calydon – a charge to which she responds eloquently. Oeneus, Meleager’s father, again plays the role of arbiter, and urges the hunters to depart. The fourth choral ode takes up where Oeneus leaves off, with a song that explores the idea of speech. However, to focus on the plot is to miss the main event. The metrical and rhythmical shift that we experience here from dialogue to choral song marks a radical departure from anything encountered previously in the play: Who hath given man speech? or who has set therein A thorn for peril and a snare for sin? For in the word his life is and his breath, And in the word his death, That madness and the infatuate heart may breed From the word’s womb the deed And life bring one thing forth ere all pass by, Even one thing which is ours yet cannot die – Death. Hast thou seen him ever anywhere, Time’s twin-born brother, imperishable as he Is perishable and plaintive, clothed with care And mutable as sand, But death is strong and full of blood and fair And perdurable and like a lord of land    (Poems, iv. 284) The first line of the choral ode contains six stressed syllables, three on either side of the caesura, promoting the expectation of a new line to the chorus’s repertoire, perhaps composed of two four-beat lines, the last beat realised as a pause, strung together. Yet the slip-back experienced in the second, shorter line disappoints this. A third pentameter line troubles us, but is completed by a fourth shorter line again. The sense of disorientation, as we move from a line with six stresses, to a line with four, to five, to three, is underpinned by the couplet-rhyme, which forges a sense of difference in similarity caused by the see-sawing between short and long lines. The alternation between full pentameter lines culminating in duple lines of shorter length continues for another couplet, before lines 7 and 8, in which the full five-beat iambic line is established. This receives tentative confirmation at the tenth line quoted, when the speech-like clarity of the question, ‘Hast thou seen him ever anywhere[?]’, affirms the reader’s suspicion that this is duple, five-beat verse. However, it is not until the tenth line quoted that we realise that a reversal of expectations has taken place. Instead of the four-beat line, which had dominated the choral songs until the third choral ode, the fourth choral ode is in five-beat. Yet the foregoing confusion, the toing and froing between the full line and the hemistich, has also awoken us to the possibility that this five-beat line might contain within it shorter units. This is demonstrated by the syntactical construction of the ninth line quoted. Though the word ‘Death’ is metrically part of this line, the unusual caesura, after the first position, means that the question with which the next sentence begins gives the impression of an independent line, or a line of four stresses. Attridge, as quoted above, suggests that the four-beat rhythm is sometimes experienced as a kind of ‘sub-rhythm’ in the pentameter. The technique of Swinburne’s choral ode promotes that experience, by shuttling between short and long lines, by syntax, but also by means of alliteration and monosyllabic diction. Though the tenth and eleventh lines quoted are indisputably iambic in character, the combination of alliteration – which often coincides with stress – and the central caesura means that we read four stresses on ‘per’sh-’, ‘plain-’, ‘cloth-’, ‘care’. If the first strophe of this chorus is anything to judge by, Swinburne’s tendency towards four-beat pentameter lines is in the ascendant. Attridge’s critical metaphor of the four-beat line as sub-rhythm is again useful when trying to describe the reversal of expectations that the fourth choral ode presents. The separation of lyric and dramatic elements is no longer tenable. Instead, the lyric rhythm appears to register in the pentameter, but in such a way and at such a point in the action as to suggest that it has always been there, hidden within even the most speech-like sections. This reversal is registered in Lafourcade’s description. This is the only ode that he characterises as comprising ‘iambes et anapestes’ instead of ‘anapestes et iambes’. However, the shift receives no further comment.47 Saintsbury calls this fourth choral section ‘a ‘greater Ode’ of the best and most serious kind’ (History, iii. 336). Though his appeal to the Pindaric ode, a mode characterised in English by eccentric changes in metre and rhyme scheme, is apt, Saintsbury’s description of this ode as ‘mainly iambic’ – again suggesting the limits of foot scansion – requires expansion: though it does display a great number of duple, five-beat lines, Swinburne’s poem is so resolutely various that at times the experience of the sub-rhythm within the pentameter holds sway long enough for it to seem almost established. The sense of a more rhythmically insistent, fundamental rhythm erupting within the pentameter – the line that comes closest to everyday speech – would be powerfully effective in any setting. However, it is especially so within the cumulative, symphonic schema of Atalanta, a fact that is demonstrated by one of the most charged moments in the poem. However they choose to account for the significance of Atalanta, readers and critics tend to agree that the line ‘the supreme evil, God’ presents a particularly forceful moment. The contemporary reviewer for the Spectator speaks of ‘Titanic bursts of mingled despair and wrath’.48 Samuel Chew refers to it as an ‘extremity of defiance’.49 Douglas Bush called it ‘that tremendous climax of blasphemy’.50 H. A. Hargreaves, who takes Swinburne’s line as the title for his article, describes a ‘jarring element’.51 Alan P. Barr summarises over a hundred years of readers’ reactions when he describes this as ‘the best-known and perhaps most startling verse in the poem’.52 This line, which occurs at the end of the sixth strophe of the ode, presents one of the most complex pieces of theological reasoning in the play. Yet its force cannot be explained with reference to the argument alone. Instead, the associational attributes that have been allowed to build up, combined with the fact that the less obscure, duple rhythm allows us to hear the chorus’s song loud and clear for the first time, mean that we are primed to interpret this line in a particular way. For now we know not of them; but one saith The gods are gracious, praising God; and one, When hast thou seen? or hast thou felt his breath Touch, nor consume thine eyelids as the sun, Nor fill thee to the lips with fiery death? None hath beheld him, none Seen above other gods and shapes of things, Swift without feet and flying without wings, Intolerable, not clad with death or life, Insatiable, not known of night or day, The lord of love and loathing and of strife Who gives a star and takes a sun away; Who shapes the soul, and makes her a barren wife To the earthly body and grievous growth of clay; Who turns the large limbs to a little flame And binds the great sea with a little sand; Who makes desire, and slays desire with shame; Who shakes the heaven as ashes in his hand; Who, seeing the light and shadow for the same, Bids day waste night as fire devours a brand, Smites without sword, and scourges without rod; The supreme evil, God.   (Poems, iv. 287) Up until now this choral ode has shown a high incidence of lines performed with fewer than five stresses. The re-establishment of five beats per line at the beginning of this strophe is therefore somewhat unusual. However, this strophe proves very much more than a metrical exercise: at ‘Swift without feet…’ we are again tipped into a line in which only four stresses sound. For ten lines we hear the chorus denouncing the cruelty of the gods, but although we know this is supposed to be a five-beat line (which reasserts itself in ‘The lord of love…’), the frequent compulsion to perform only four stresses per line pushes the pentameter a long way towards song rhythm. This pull towards four stresses is partly enforced by the syntax and repetition. ‘Who gives a star and takes a sun away’ is a pentameter – but its monosyllabic character, and the fact of syntactical repetition of the lines which precede it, ask that we attend to those elements in the utterance which describe the gods’ control, which emphasise the verb and its objects – which number four. It is as if we are half-choosing, half-giving way to the underlying four-beat rhythm that we associate with the choral song. The reader’s sense of a gathering tension peaks at the line ‘Smites without sword, and scourges without rod’ – which is syntactically and alliteratively arranged so as to tip us towards the utterance of four, and not five, stresses. This in itself would not be enough to suggest the impulsive, dancing measure associated with the first choral ode – there are many lines in this ode which sound nothing like ‘When the hounds of spring are on winter’s traces’. However, Swinburne was not dubbed a ‘prosodist magician’ by Saintsbury for nothing. Here, in the penultimate line, by an expert arrangement set in motion by the strong syllable falling on the verb in the first position, and underpinned by the central caesura, Swinburne is able to create two runs of two or more unstressed syllables. The result is a line containing four stresses again, but with a distinct swing to it, which we can trace to the recurrence of two or more unstressed syllables at the beginning of lines. This line is still recognisable as a line of iambic pentameter, albeit sprung.53 Yet read within the context of Swinburne’s play, it appears as if this pentameter has been overtaken by the song-measure of the chorus. This rising penultimate line speeds the reader up and over the line break – and rises, via an anapaest, launching into a trochee, metamorphosing into an iamb, the last ictus finally terminating the couplet in a rhyme: ‘The supreme evil, God’. Saintsbury was right to note how ‘the poet actually keeps the three balls of iambic, trochaic, and anapaestic rhythm in the air all at the same time’ (History, iii. 347) – but Saintsbury was commenting on the fluidity of the karole, ‘common measure’, or a four-beat line. To call this last line a flourish would be an understatement: rhythmically, it is the most charged line in the entire play. The effect of this concurrence of expectations, associations, and sheer technical finesse is a curious one. What we appear to be undergoing here is a kind of rhythmic anagnorisis. The painful truth of the matter – the futility of prayer in the face of the fact that human beings are subject to the whims of the gods – is explicable without the rhythmic schema of the play, while simultaneously appearing to gain everything from it. From this point on the experience of speed, and of lines with fewer than five stresses – song-like, daydream-inducing, jubilantly violent – will be connected with the will of the unjust gods. And yet, since this painful revelation is entirely dependent upon the build-up and confirmation of previous rhythmic expectations and associations, the line confirms something we have suspected all along. Nietzsche, in his discussion of the dithyramb, speaks of an analogous moment in Greek tragedy in which the ‘living wall’ of the chorus is broken down through the stimulation of the ‘symbolic faculties’, through movement, dance, and rhythm. This comes very close to describing how Swinburne’s poem works. He understands how a symbolic force such as rhythm depends, for its effectiveness, on recognition. Yet Nietzsche’s sense of the role that ‘self-abandonment’ might play in relation to such music is also an apt description of what feels so dangerous about Swinburne’s chorus. We had given ourselves over to the pleasures of the rhythm, without attending to the wisdom it contained. It is only in the fourth choral ode, when the Dionysian rhythm appears contained within the Apollonian line, that we are able to understand both the force of that rhythm, and to hear for ourselves the wisdom of Silenus. This realisation is astonishing, implicating, but also full of horror. For this hint of an irresistible force behind speech has been hunting the reader from the opening lines. From the time the second messenger arrives with news that Meleager is dying, the eruption of triple rhythm merely confirms the sense that this rhythm has come to mean ineluctable fate. Yet this phrase ‘come to mean’ seems inadequate to an encounter with Swinburne’s tragedy. To suggest that rhythm and will might be close associates is to rationalise, and in doing so reduce, an aesthetic encounter. Jerome McGann offers the fullest account of this aspect of Swinburne’s style, suggesting the importance of Baudelaire’s 1861 article ‘Richard Wagner et Tannhäuser à Paris’ to Swinburne’s early development as a poet. Baudelaire sent Swinburne a presentation copy of this essay in 1863, partly in thanks for Swinburne’s 1862 review in the Spectator of the Fleurs du Mal. McGann notes how Baudelaire and Wagner stressed the importance of dramatic form (in particular the form of Greek drama), of mythic content, and of an inner musical structure based on the melodic transformation of key motifs.54 McGann argues that ‘Anactoria’ was ‘the first poem Swinburne consciously constructed on his new prosodic scheme’. However, the extracts from Franz Liszt’s book on Wagner that Baudelaire quotes seem more relevant to a reading of Atalanta than to Swinburne’s first mature attempt at couplets. Baudelaire notes how: The spectator, forewarned and willing to forgo those unrelated passages which, cogged to each other along the thread of some plot, form the substance of our usual operas, will find it strangely interesting to follow throughout three acts the profoundly studied, astonishingly skilful and poetically intelligible arrangement with which Wagner, by means of several leading musical phrases, has tightened the melodic knot which constitutes his whole drama. The turns that these phrases make, clinging to and intertwined with the words of the poem, create an effect that is deeply moving.55 This extract, quoted and italicised by Baudelaire, is taken from Liszt’s book on Wagner, yet it might have been written about Atalanta. Liszt’s sense of the way in which Wagner’s opera is driven by something other than character or plot, the ‘strangely interesting’ way in which rhythmic movements come to be associated with a theme or feeling, the construction of the play around this ‘melodic knot’, and the unusual amount of attention required to puzzle it out – all ring true to the experience of reading Swinburne. Swinburne’s copy of Baudelaire’s essay, sold at auction in 1916 to Arthur Symons, is not extant. However, were we able to show Swinburne underlining and commenting on these passages, it is unlikely that we would be any closer to proving that a causal link exists between Wagner’s principle of musical construction and Swinburne’s first attempt at a Greek tragedy in English. What remains most suggestive in McGann’s account is the analogy it provides for thinking about what it is like to read Atalanta. In this direction, Baudelaire’s description of the intensity of Wagner might have been written of Atalanta: ‘Everything that is implied in the words: will, desire, concentration, nervous intensity, explosion is felt and is sensed in his works’.56 Swinburne recognised a similar quality in the poets he most admired. In his Essay on William Blake (1868), he rejects the idea that art must have a moral, arguing that: the shape or style of workmanship each artist is bound to look to, whether or no he may choose to trouble himself about the moral or other bearings of his work. This principle, which makes the manner of doing a thing the essence of the thing done, the purpose or result of it the accident, thus reversing the principle of moral or material duty, must inevitably expose art to the condemnation of the other party.57 Atalanta, like Wagner’s Tannhäuser, convinces us of the power of music to mean. In this sense, Swinburne’s poem also overturns the Socratic expectation, which Nietzsche outlines in The Birth of Tragedy, that in order to be beautiful a thing must be intelligible. It is in this sense that we might understand Saintsbury’s judgement of Atalanta as a renouveau of English prosody. In its heroic effort to move and think and feel through a repertoire fast becoming thought of as ‘traditional’, it is truly untimely. Yet in pushing the affective capacities of rhythm and metre further, he also put the question that later generations would answer. It is impossible to understand how much Pound and Eliot owe to Swinburne, or how impossible a poem like The Waste Land would be without Atalanta, without first understanding the lengths to which Swinburne went in his pursuit of the question: How can rhythm mean? Footnotes My thanks are due to Michael Hurley, Francis O’Gorman, and Jerome J. McGann. For his rigour, criticism, and support throughout my Ph.D. research, which anticipates this essay, I remain grateful to Simon Jarvis. My research was enabled by an AHRC grant. 1 Douglas Oliver, Poetry and Narrative in Performance (Basingstoke, 1989), p. 112. 2 Clive Scott, The Poetics of French Verse (Oxford, 1998), p. 98. 3 Baxandall’s subtle allusion to the section on the ‘Fetish of the Commodity and Its Secret’ in Marx’s Capital is suggestive of how the subjective may come to seem objective by the mediating power of the social; see Capital, trans. Ben Fowkes (1976), i. 165. Cf Peter de Bolla’s argument that it is the communal aspect of aesthetic experience that produces the ‘particular amalgam’ of a claim is at once subjective and objective in nature in Art Matters (Cambridge, Mass., 2001), p. 10. 4 Michael Baxandall, Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy (Oxford, 1988), p. 29. 5 George Saintsbury, A History of English Prosody from the Twelfth Century to the Present Day, 3 vols. (1906-10), iii. 513. References to History are to volume and page number of this edition. 6 Most recently in Meredith Martin’s identification of his refusal ‘to engage with the complexity of English meter and, by extension, English poetry’s role as a stabilising, patriotic force in national culture’: The Rise and Fall of Meter: Poetry and English National Culture, 1860-1930 (Princeton, 2012), p. 103. For an alternative account of Saintsbury’s contribution which has been important for my argument see Michael Hurley, ‘George Saintsbury’s History of English Prosody’, E in C, 60/4 (2010), 336-60. 7 When, for example, Saintsbury notes an advantage for the reader who reads ‘scanningly’, I understand that he argues that how a line moves can be more readily reflected upon for those who have previous experience of colometry (dividing up lines into feet) rather than because they have access to a special kind of experience, as Martin appears to suggest (The Rise and Fall of Meter, pp. 100-1). His emphasis is on the reader’s previous experience of reflection, rather than on a first-order experience of reading. 8 Nicolson, Swinburne (1926), pp. 91-2. 9 Samuel C. Chew, Swinburne (Boston, 1929), p. 59. 10 M. K. Louis, ‘Wise Words and Wild Words: The Problem of Language in Swinburne’s “Atalanta”’, Victorian Poetry, 25/1 (1987), p. 45; Richard Mathews, ‘Heart’s Love and Heart’s Division: The Quest for Unity in “Atalanta in Calydon”’, Victorian Poetry, 9/1-2 (1971), p. 46. 11 Nicolson, Swinburne, p. 86. 12 Marion Weir, ‘The Influence of Aeschylus and Euripides on the Structure and Content of Swinburne’s Atalanta in Calydon and Erechtheus’ (Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 1920); C. M. Bowra, The Romantic Imagination (1950; Oxford, 1995), pp. 221-44; Alan P. Barr, ‘The Irony of Swinburne’s Atalanta in Calydon’, Victorian Poetry, 51/1 (2013), 1-13. 13 Georges Lafourcade, La Jeunesse de Swinburne (1837-1867), 2 vols. (Oxford, 1928), ii. 408-10. 14 Orla Polten, ‘Swinburne’s “Atalanta in Calydon”: Prosody as Sublimation in Victorian “Greek” Tragedy’, Classical Receptions Journal, 9/3 (July 2017), 331-49. 15 Herbert Tucker, Epic: Britain’s Heroic Muse 1790-1910 (Oxford, 2012), p. 556. 16 Thomas L. Wymer, ‘Swinburne’s Tragic Vision in “Atalanta in Calydon”’, Victorian Poetry, 9/1-2 (1971), p. 1. 17 Mathews, ‘Heart’s Love and Heart’s Division’, p. 35. 18 Katie Paterson, ‘“Much Regrafted Pain”: Schopenhauerian Love and the Fecundity of Pain in “Atalanta in Calydon”’, Victorian Poetry, 47/4 (2009), p. 717. 19 Jerome J. McGann, Swinburne: An Experiment in Criticism (Chicago, 1972), p. 104. 20 More recently, McGann has described Atalanta as one of a number of poems that present a ‘major shift’ in Swinburne’s work after he read Baudelaire’s essay ‘Richard Wagner et Tannhäuser à Paris’ in 1863. However, though his exploration of Swinburne’s ideas of ‘harmony’ in relation to those ideas of Wagner remains suggestive, this essay is only tangentially concerned with Atalanta. See McGann, ‘Wagner, Baudelaire, Swinburne: Poetry in the Condition of Music’, Victorian Poetry, 47/4 (2009), 619-32. 21 Ibid., p. 619. 22 ‘A term still used, but becoming archaic … [for] the new season, spring’: Emile Littré (ed.), Dictionnaire de la langue française (accessed 19 July 2015); <http://artflsrv02.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/dicos/pubdico1look.pl?strippedhw=renouveau>. 23 Rikky Rooksby, A. C. Swinburne: A Poet’s Life (Farnham, 1997), p. 111. 24 The Letters of Algernon Charles Swinburne, ed. Edmund Gosse and T. J. Wise (New York, 1919), i. 30-1. 25 Quoted in James I. Porter, Nietzsche and the Philology of the Future (Stanford, 2000), p. 28. 26 Richard Monckton Milnes, ‘Atalanta in Calydon: A Tragedy’, The Edinburgh Review (July 1865), p. 205. 27 The Swinburne Letters, ed. Cecil Y. Lang (New Haven, 1959), i. 21. 28 William Rutland, Swinburne: A Nineteenth-Century Hellene (Oxford, 1931), p. 2. 29 Yisrael Levin, Swinburne’s Apollo: Myth, Faith and Victorian Spirituality (Farnham, 2013), p. 133. 30 Letters, ed. Gosse and Wise, i. 248. 31 Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations, trans. R. J. Hollingdale, ed. Daniel Breazeale (Cambridge, 1997), p. 60. 32 Undergraduate Papers: An Oxford Journal (1857-1858), ed. Thomas Hill Green, John Nichol, Algernon Charles Swinburne, and others. Facsimile reproduction with an introduction by Francis Jacques Sypher (Delmar, NY, 1974), p. 175. 33 Matthew Arnold, Complete Prose Works (Ann Arbor, 1960), i. 63. 34 Swinburne, Essays and Studies (1875), p. 162. 35 ‘les chœurs de Swinburne sont d’une irrégularité complète, ou se bornent à répéter plusieurs fois la même forme en une série de strophes identiques, comme il arrive parfois chez les Grecs dans certains chants d’acteurs, mais jamais dans les chœurs véritables’. Lafourcade, Le Jeunesse de Swinburne, ii. 408; my translation. 36 D. S. Carne-Ross, full of praise for Swinburne’s Greek translations and poems, remakes the case for an English equivalent to Greek quantity, arguing that stress and quantity ‘coincide’, but provides no examples to test this (Carne-Ross, Classics and Translation: Essays, ed. Kenneth Haynes (Lewisburg, Pa., 2010), p. 40). D. W. Harding finds that his description of Swinburne’s ‘familiar swing’ in terms derived from classical scansion will only get him so far, and gives up: to ‘speak of a mixed iambic-anapaestic metre may specify the ingredients of the mixture but not their proportions nor the order in which they come’ (Harding, Words into Rhythm: English Speech Rhythm in Verse and Prose (Cambridge, 2010), p. 41). Polten suggests a link between Swinburne’s epigraph, Euripides’ Andromache, and Swinburne’s final kommos. However, the lack of direct link between elegiac couplets and the kommos itself (which actually bears more of a resemblance to the final chorus of Arnold’s Empedocles at Etna, which Swinburne admired), combined with Swinburne’s sense that English poetry cannot support two consecutive stressed syllables (as her scansion suggests it must) and his intense dislike of Euripides, means that this argument remains speculative at best (Polten, ‘Swinburne’s “Atalanta in Calydon”’, p. 340). 37 Derek Attridge, ‘The Case for the English Dolnik; or, How Not to Introduce Prosody’, Poetics Today, 33/1 (2012), p. 7. 38 Commenting on the second chorus ‘Before the Beginning of Years’, Saintsbury appends a note in which he links this perception of ‘elasticity combined with form … to those on “At a Month’s End”’ (History, iii. 36). 39 Saintsbury’s classical training meant that it would take until 2012 – forty years after Derek Attridge pioneered beat scansion as a system for describing prosodic effects – for the dol’nik form to receive a full description as follows: ‘(1) the number of syllables varies from line to line; the number of beats per line – four – is unchanging; (2) there is some freedom in the disposition of stressed and unstressed syllables, in contrast to stricter forms that control the number of syllables as well as beats; (3) the large majority of stressed syllables are felt as beats, and the large majority of unstressed syllables are felt as offbeats (or elements in offbeats); (4) if a syllable that normally does not carry a strong emphasis, like the first syllable of under, is treated as a beat, the forceful rhythm encourages the reader to give it some additional weight; (5) beats can be omitted and experienced silently under very particular conditions; offbeats between beats can be omitted with slightly more freedom (neither of these omissions occurs in this poem); (6) only rarely do more than two syllables make up the offbeat between the beats – the norm is to vary between one and two, to produce single and double offbeats; (7) lines can begin and end on a beat or an offbeat; (8) the disposition of the different types of offbeat is such as to enhance the strength of the rhythm; (9) there are no feet’. For a full discussion see Attridge, ‘The Case for the English Dolnik’, p. 7 and passim. 40 Derek Attridge, The Rhythms of English Poetry (1982), p. 143. 41 The Poems of Algernon Charles Swinburne, 5 vols. (1905-6), iv. 251. Further references are given in the text. 42 Quoted in Edward Thomas, Algernon Charles Swinburne: A Critical Study (1912), p. 23. I have been unable to trace the source of this quotation. 43 The Correspondence of John Ruskin and Charles Eliot Norton, ed. John Lewis Bradley and Ian Ousby (Cambridge, 1987), p. 157. 44 Quoted in Georgiana Burne-Jones, Memorials of Edward Burne-Jones, introd. John Christian, 2 vols. (1993), ii. 190. 45 Bowra, The Romantic Imagination, p. 235. 46 Thomas, Algernon Charles Swinburne: A Critical Study, 12. 47 Lafourcade, La Jeunesse de Swinburne, ii. 409. 48 ‘Atalanta in Calydon’, The Spectator, 15 Apr. 1865, p. 16. 49 Chew, Swinburne, p. 62. 50 Douglas Bush, Mythology and the Romantic Tradition in English Poetry (Cambridge, 1937), p. 340. 51 H. A. Hargreaves, ‘Swinburne’s Greek Plays and God, “The Supreme Evil”’, Modern Language Notes, 76/7 (Nov. 1961), 607-16: 607. 52 Barr, ‘The Irony of Swinburne’s Atalanta in Calydon’, p. 12. 53 For a discussion of the ‘sprung pentameter’, see William Keach, Shelley’s Style (New York, 1984), p. 162; Attridge, The Rhythms of English Poetry, pp. 353-5. 54 McGann, ‘Wagner, Baudelaire, Swinburne’, p. 626. 55 ‘Richard Wagner et Tannhäuser à Paris’, in Baudelaire as a Literary Critic, introd. and trans. Lois Boe Hyslop and Francis E. Hyslop Jr. (Pennsylvania, 1964), p. 217. 56 Ibid., p. 223. 57 Swinburne, William Blake: A Critical Essay (1868), pp. 88-9. © The Author(s) [2018]. Published by Oxford University Press; all rights reserved. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Essays in Criticism Oxford University Press

‘A Renouveau of English Prosody’ Rereading Swinburne’s Atalanta in Calydon

Loading next page...
 
/lp/ou_press/a-renouveau-of-english-prosody-rereading-swinburne-s-atalanta-in-8PhcWEh3cT
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Copyright
© The Author(s) [2018]. Published by Oxford University Press; all rights reserved.
ISSN
0014-0856
eISSN
1471-6852
D.O.I.
10.1093/escrit/cgx030
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

THE HYPOTHESIS THAT A REASSESSMENT of Swinburne’s ‘Greekness’ must begin with a consideration of his versification may seem questionable to many. As critics such as Prins, McGann, Louis, Maxwell, and, more recently, Ribeyrol, Evangelista, and Polten have shown, Swinburne’s Hellenism provokes questions to do with gender, class, theology, and cosmopolitanism – why should we care about versification? Whether one chooses to approach the issue of Swinburne’s Hellenism through the lens of phenomenological, hermeneutical, structuralist or poststructuralist theories, or more recent cognitive or formalist approaches, one must still read it: prosody is as inevitable as reading. If prosody is as inescapable as reading, then all reading is necessarily subjective. It is for this reason that Douglas Oliver’s reading into ‘the machinery’ led to his revised definition of poetic stress as that which ‘arises from our conscious belief that we have, just recently, in a notional instant, unified some of our experience of a poem’s developing sounds’.1 Likewise for Clive Scott: ‘we may read the text in such a way as to try to preserve … a third-person experience, as someone else’s experience’. But ‘this is all but impossible’.2 The art critic Michael Baxandall describes how light reflected from the art object enters the eye, falls on the retina, and is conveyed by a series of nerves to the brain.3 After this, what the eye sees is no longer uniform. Instead: ‘That which we tend toward will depend on many things … but not least on the interpreting skills one happens to possess … what we may call one’s cognitive style’.4 What Baxandall says of painting could also be said – by analogy – of auditory perception. Yet to claim that reading is subjective is not to claim that it is merely individualistic. It has become a commonplace of recent neo-formalist approaches to claim that all readings are equally valid, but to say so overlooks the fact that all acts of reading are also communal in nature. Immanuel Kant pointed out that it is a quirk of aesthetic judgements that they are at once deeply subjective, yet we want to convince other people of our own experience. If aesthetic experiences are subjective, objective, and communal, then we can no longer avoid the question of competency, a daunting prospect in the case of Swinburne. Considered against this poet – fluent in four languages other than English (two of them dead), whose verse was paradoxically both classic and innovatory, yet whose Alexandrian attempt to conquer all forms promoted a level of stylistic self-awareness which was to prove unsustainable for the next generation of poets – Baxandall’s reconstruction of how the man or woman in the street experienced paintings in fifteenth century Italy comes to look almost easy. The question of a community of listeners for Swinburne’s verse is further complicated by the possibility – which here must remain just a hunch – that a reader listening to poetry before the advent of free verse, which emphasised very different parts of the repertoire, may listen differently to readers now. Yet there are several basic continuities between 1865 and the present which might give us courage: the linguistic-prosodic capacities of the English language remain largely the same; our ability to encounter and reflect on how a poem works is not so markedly different; and our ability to discern similarities and differences in technique between poems and poets across periods lies at the centre of our critical practice. A belief in these continuities informs the criticism of George Saintsbury, whose History of English Prosody seeks to understand each poet’s place within what he calls the ‘life-history of English verse’.5 This emphasis on Englishness has left him open to accusations of a less than savoury English nationalism.6 Yet Saintsbury shares with Swinburne a working knowledge of the radical discontinuities between Greek and English prosodic systems, and an intuitive sense of the inadequacy of foot scansion in its application to English verse. Furthermore, Saintsbury’s reading of Atalanta proves enabling in three respects: first, the subjective-objective nature of aesthetic judgements – what he calls, elsewhere, a process of ‘correcting impressions’ – drives him to share his own encounter in detail, yet his evaluation of Swinburne’s play assumes no authority other than that of a lifetime spent within a community of readers, comparing and contrasting different kinds of English verse (History, iii. 515). While Saintsbury’s authority in this regard is overwhelming, the assumption is that anyone can do it. Second, his argument that Atalanta is an English poem, which must be understood within an English tradition, does not require the ‘true, classically trained, public school educated, elite English ear’ that Meredith Martin identifies, but only reasonable literacy in the English language.7 Both these impulses assume community. Lastly, reading Atalanta requires him to acknowledge the inadequacy of foot scansion as a tool for interpretation – an admission which suggests that, at times, ‘reading scanningly’ can be at odds with one’s actual encounter. Reading Atalanta, three aspects of my encounter with this poem remain. First, a sense of enormous cumulative rhythmic power, working between and across two very different modes. Second, a punctum – to borrow Roland Barthes’s term for the detail in a photograph which catches the eye – around the line in the fourth chorus in which the chorus declares the utter helplessness of human beings under the sway of ‘The supreme evil, God’. Third, a sense – immensely difficult to describe – that the play’s exposure of the cruelty of the gods resides less in what the characters say about them, or what the drama shows, than in the sense of an ineluctable force, coursing through the words of the play, which gradually overcomes each of the speakers – so much so that Swinburne’s rhythm comes to figure, on reflection, as a kind of fate. Is this just my own fantasy? The reading record suggests not. Though Swinburne’s prosody must remain a mystery for Harold Nicolson, I recognise something in his description of: Rhythm in the meticulous balance and correlation of each part, in the cadenced transitions from the major to the minor key, in the continuous processional movement of the main choruses. And music, passionate, unrestrained, and haunting, in every line and lyric, as if the whole action were accompanied by the throb of hidden flutes – as if, in truth, the essential unity of the drama were a lyric unity, a latent and continuous hymn to Dionysus.8 Likewise, Samuel Chew’s admission that ‘Under the hypnotic spell of the swift bright choruses and surging blank verse some readers have confessed their inability to follow the story’ sums up my own experience of listening to Swinburne’s choruses.9 Richard Mathews and Margot K. Louis both suggest that there are two styles in Atalanta, one that Louis calls ‘soothing’ and ‘rational’, and a second that ‘expresses hostility, division, and pain more frankly, with a frightening lyrical view’.10 This view is perhaps too schematic, yet it is an apt response to the range and associated effects of Swinburne’s style – from lyrical to rhetorical. And yet, while it seems that few readers can pass over its prosodic power, there has – since Saintsbury – been almost no sustained enquiry into how Swinburne’s poem achieves such powerful effects. The challenge of doing so was set out by Nicolson in 1926: it is ‘impossible’ to explain the final ‘effect’ of Swinburne’s play by analysis or quotation, since the poem is ‘cumulative’ and ‘organic’: each part is dependent on the whole, and in the final kommos the harmonies and rhythms which have crossed and re-crossed each other in a subtle interchange throughout the poem are gathered together in the vast symphonic summary, and the whole purport and beauty of the drama is disclosed.11 Nicolson provides a technical analysis of the play to claim that, structurally at least, Atalanta conforms to the model of Greek tragedy, an argument that is also made by Marion Weir, C. M. Bowra, and Alan P. Barr.12 Georges Lafourcade’s attempt to analyse the chorus of Atalanta presents the only attempt at large-scale metrical analysis, an enquiry that was largely abandoned after 1928.13 More recently, Orla Polten has argued for the influence of Euripides, drawing new links between the metre of the epigraph of Atalanta and Andromache, which she also detects in the play’s final kommos.14 However, none of these arguments seek to understand how Swinburne’s verse achieves its powerful effects. Instead, responses tend to fall back on what this play demonstrates about Swinburne’s universe: for Herbert Tucker, Atalanta reveals Swinburne’s ‘creed’: ‘Ever since the first great chorus of Atalanta in Calydon, for Swinburne one thing has not just followed another but has hunted it down and preyed on it’.15 No other poem by Swinburne (with the exception, perhaps, of ‘The Triumph of Time’) has provoked such soul-searching: Thomas Wymer finds in Atalanta ‘an unorthodox affirmation of life’.16 For Robert Mathews it ‘depicts the yearning of the human soul for unity through love’.17 Katie Paterson prefers to read Atalanta ‘through the bleakness of Schopenhauer’.18 Further readings reinterpret the story through the lens of mythic, semiotic, feminist, and psychoanalytical theory. Edward Thomas, appearing as a character in Jerome McGann’s dialogue, Swinburne: An Experiment in Criticism, attempts to intervene to revisit the question of Swinburne’s technique: ‘You talk about this work as if it were a play and not fundamentally a poem. But surely it exerts its greatest force at the lyrical level …?’19 However, despite this attempt to reorientate discussion, McGann’s claim for Swinburne’s lyrical power is never fully instantiated with regard to technique. Thomas quotes the opening chorus to ‘illustrate how Swinburne works his language’, and observes its ‘exquisite pace’. Yet Atalanta is ultimately valued for its triumphant vision of how, ‘Turned upon the wheel of change, men yet achieve a nobility beyond the reach, perhaps beyond even the conception … of the changeless gods’.20 If Jerome McGann is right, that ‘the great prosodic scholar George Saintsbury was one of the last to have a clear grasp of what Swinburne’s work involved and how it was announced’, then we might do well to reconsider his estimate of ‘that epoch-making book’ Atalanta in Calydon.21 As Saintsbury reminds us: Those who read Atalanta when it came out had no lack of ‘aged’ horses of the very first class to try it by… But in the Atalanta choruses there was nothing in the least imitative of either of these poets, and there was a quality which Tennyson had seldom displayed, and which Browning … did not often employ in his best lyrics – the quality of speed … ‘When the hounds of Spring are on Winter’s traces’ made an actual renouveau of English prosody, and sent a fresh pack of verse-hounds, bounding and doubling … through wood and over field of the poetic country. (History, iii. 335) Reading the chorus of Atalanta, Saintsbury is able to take in the whole of the English prosodic tradition. Swinburne, ‘indisputably at the head of the choir of the poets of our days’, is cast as the pupil turned maestro (History, iii. 334). His second book presents a pivotal moment in the history of English poetry. The word ‘renouveau’, which Saintsbury uses to describe the movement of the first choral song, puns on this ‘terme encore usité … mais qui vieillit’ for ‘La saison nouvelle, le printemps’.22 However, the word can also mean ‘renaissance’ in the sense of a spiritual or artistic renewal. Yet Saintsbury’s argument that Atalanta is an English poem appears to run contrary, not only to the critical endeavour to establish Swinburne’s ‘Greekness’, but also to Swinburne’s own description of his work in an early letter to Lady Trevelyan. Here he explains the thought and form of his poem, largely composed during the period of his sister Edith’s illness and death:23 In spite of the funereal circumstances which I suspect have a little deepened the natural colours of Greek fatalism here and there, so as to have already incurred a charge of ‘rebellious antagonism’ and such-like things, I never enjoyed anything more in my life than the composition of this poem … I think it is pure Greek, and the first poem of the sort in modern times, combining lyric and dramatic work on the old principle. Shelley’s Prometheus is magnificent and un-Hellenic, spoilt too in my mind by the infusion of philanthropic doctrinaire views and ‘progress of the species’; and by what I gather from Lewes’ life of Goethe the Iphigenia in Tauris must be also impregnated with modern morals and feelings. As for Professor Arnold’s Merope, the clothes are well enough, but where has the body gone? So I thought and still think the field was clear for me.24 Swinburne’s assertion that his tragedy is ‘pure Greek’ is difficult to construe. He admits that he may have ‘deepened the natural colours of Greek fatalism’, yet his conscious distancing of his ‘views’ from Shelley and Goethe is, he claims, closer to the Greek. As his use of the Carlylean analogy between thought and form as body and clothes suggests, this ‘Greek’ attitude cannot be divorced from style. In comparison, Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound is ‘unhellenic’, and the verse of Arnold’s Merope has lost touch with antique ‘morals and feelings’. Swinburne’s desire to ‘combin[e] lyric and dramatic work on the old principle’ appears to claim affinity with tragic drama. However, if we consider his remarks in more detail, it becomes apparent that he is not claiming to have written a ‘Greek’ poem in such a way as to invite arguments for and against. Instead, I want to suggest, his insistence that his play is ‘pure Greek’ might be better understood as originating in the same humour in which Friedrich Nietzsche, in an early lecture, wryly remarks that: ‘I fear that we do not understand these Greeks in a sufficiently Greek way’.25 Consider Swinburne’s exchange with his friend Lord Houghton, which followed the latter’s review of Atalanta in the Edinburgh Review. Full of praise for Swinburne’s prosodic achievement, Houghton cannot finally accept the thought of the play as ‘Greek’. Even the Prometheus of Aeschylus, he argues, will not provide an acceptable example for man’s defiance of the gods, since Prometheus is a god and not a man.26 It is crucial to place Swinburne’s response against Houghton’s criticism, as it demonstrates the idiosyncrasies of Swinburne’s view of ‘Greekness’. His reply is written, as is typical of his correspondence with Houghton, in the character of a petulant schoolboy to his master: One birch-twig I hereby pull out of the bloody bundle. As to my quantities and metre and rule of rhythm and rhyme, I defy castigation. The head master has sent me up for good on that score. Mr. Tennyson tells me in a note that he ‘envies me’ my gift that way … The moral and religious question I give up at once. I let down my breeches, pull up my shirt, and kneel down … Only don’t say with my old friend of the Spectator that it isn’t Greek – because it is.27 Swinburne’s riposte suggests that he is using the adjective ‘Greek’ in a particular, qualified way. His insistence on the quality of his verse argues that any attempt to understand this assumed heritage must begin with his style. However, his admission that he has not been entirely faithful to the ‘moral and religious’ aspects of Greek tragic drama suggests a claim to Greek heritage that cannot be taken as factual. Swinburne never read Nietzsche. William Rutland affirms that as to ‘German … he knew not a word, and was consequently inclined rather to belittle all things Teutonic, and even all things Germanic’.28 However, this has not discouraged critics from making the connection.29 Their shared interest in the music of Wagner, for example, and their passionate dislike of the plays of Euripides – for which Swinburne claimed he had Benjamin Jowett’s approval – suggest similar tastes.30 So there may be good grounds for comparing Swinburne’s argument for Atalanta as ‘pure Greek’ with Nietzsche’s early arguments about the value of the classics in his Untimely Meditations: It is only to the extent that I am a pupil of earlier times, especially the Hellenic, that though a child of the present time I was able to acquire such untimely experiences … I do not know what meaning classical philology could have for our time if it was not untimely – that is to say, acting counter to our time and thereby acting on our time and, let us hope, for the benefit of time to come.31 For Nietzsche a ‘pure[ly] Greek’ idea was the result, not of philological excavation, but of a critical philology, which understood the thought and rhythm of classical texts in untimely ways: what drives Nietzsche is not just the question of how the Greeks thought about the divine and made their poems, but also how we might think about the divine and make poems now. It is in this untimely sense that I understand Swinburne’s claim that the prosody of Atalanta is ‘pure Greek’. Taken in this way, Saintsbury’s claim for Atalanta as a renouveau, or rebirth, is exactly right. Saintsbury would have understood that Swinburne’s insistence that his poem was ‘pure Greek’ was not to be taken literally. ‘No metre’, he argues in his discussion of Richard Dixon’s Mano, ‘is the same in any two languages: most, if not all, metres are absolutely different in any two languages’ (History, iii. 362-3). However, it is Swinburne’s preface to his translation of the Grand Chorus from Aristophanes’ The Birds that confirms Saintsbury’s conviction of the impossibility of rendering Greek into English. Swinburne’s comments on this point were enthusiastically supported by Saintsbury, who dedicates a considerable amount of attention in his History to this ‘very rare and specially precious vouchsafing of a directly prosodic note’ that: [Aristophanes’] marvellous metrical invention of the anapaestic heptameter is almost exactly reproducible in a language to which all variations and combinations of anapaestic, iambic or trochaic metre are as natural and as pliable as all dactylic and spondaic forms of verse are unnatural and abhorrent. (History, iii. 352) The truth about English prosody which Swinburne has hit upon is in fact a very basic one: since English prosody is characterised simultaneously by the principle of stress-timing and the principle of syllable-timing, the distribution of the ictus is flexible. Stress can be distributed alternately across syllables, as in duple verse. However, it can also be distributed after every second unstressed syllable – as in triple verse – and even, very rarely, after every third syllable – as in a third paeonic (for which see Swinburne’s parody ‘The Higher Pantheism in a Nutshell’). According to Derek Attridge, a run of four unstressed syllables seems to be the limit-point of English isochrony, since after this a mediate stress will be employed to ensure the rhythm continues to be perceptible. Swinburne’s prefatory note was enough to convince Saintsbury that Swinburne knew more about English prosody than most ‘preceptists’. Yet far from being a cause for dismay, the incommensurability of Greek and English prosody brings with it a renewed sense of the capacities and limits of the English language. Indeed, Swinburne’s sense of the difference between English and Greek prosodic systems originates, not from precepts, but from his own training, reading, and practice, as can be seen from the discussions of the Old Mortality Society – the Balliol College debating group of which Swinburne was an early member – in the late 1850s. In an undergraduate review of Matthew Arnold’s Greek tragedy Merope, published in the group’s magazine Undergraduate Papers, Swinburne’s friend John Nichol criticises Matthew Arnold for his failure to write sufficiently ‘English’ choruses: whatever be the place of lyrical effusions on the stage, there is one requisite which attaches to them above all other sorts of composition; they must be natural. To be so they must be written, said, or sung in the verse natural to the language in which they are expressed. Translation is not the mere transference of words from one tongue to another: a good translation is one which produces the same effect on the reader as that which is produced by the original. Measures as well as words are in so far matters of language, and vary in their effect according as they are married to Greek, Latin or English verse … Iambics and the more irregular Hellenic metres do not exist in our tongue. Mr. Arnold has done well to adopt blank verse both in ‘Balder’ and ‘Merope’ as his heroic line; he has failed in his adaptations of the chorus.32 Of course, Arnold’s own view is not so different from that of Nichol. As he explained in his preface to Merope, ‘what I have done is to try to follow rhythms which produced on my own feeling a similar impression to that produced on it by the rhythms of Greek choric poetry’. The difference is not so much in theory, then, than in the practice. For Arnold, since no equivalent English metres exist: ‘He … is drawn to invent new measures, whether he will or no’.33 For Nichol, Arnold has taken a wrong step, since native metres already exist. Swinburne would have had both Nichol’s views on Arnold and his own verse practice in mind when writing ‘Matthew Arnold’s New Poems’, an essay published nine years after Merope and two years after the success of Atalanta. His comments offer further insights for thinking about what a ‘pure Greek’ style in English might involve.34 In two respects, Swinburne agrees with Nichol and Arnold: absolute translation is a ‘hopeless’ task and ‘realis[ing]’ the musical force of Greek tragedy is ‘hard’. Yet ‘the laws of the choral scheme’ must still be obeyed. It would be a contradiction, having just declared translation to be an impossibility, to mean by ‘laws’ the actual metrical schema of Greek choruses. Therefore we must conclude that, for Swinburne, English prosody is its own resource. Saintsbury’s understanding that Atalanta presents a renewal of English poetry, and should be read as such, receives further confirmation once we consider the resistance of Swinburne’s prosody to a system of scansion designed for another language. Georges Lafourcade concludes that: ‘the choruses of Swinburne are completely irregular, or merely repeat several times the same shape in a series of identical stanzas, as sometimes happens with the Greeks in some songs of actors, but never in the actual chorus’.35 While the perception of a mixture of feet suggests that he has perceived the pliability that elicited such praise from Saintsbury, this variety can only be seen as a fault once viewed through the prism of classical scansion; and attempts to make sense of the prosody of Atalanta through the prism of classical scansion remain incomplete or unconvincing.36 However, the most compelling case for reading Atalanta as an English poem is made by Saintsbury who, though committed to classical foot scansion, had to seek another name to describe what he was hearing in Swinburne’s verse: I have commented, in more places than one or two of this prosodic history, on instances of karole – of the continuous dancing measure that picks up the movement from stanza to stanza in a sort of endless chain, and maintains this movement, of dance not of pace, throughout. … Schematically it is nothing more than ‘long measure’ with the odd lines double-rhymed hyper-catalectically. But, by working on the fact that this additional syllable gives a trochaic ‘throw-back’ throughout the line, and by marvellous management of the occasional substitution of anapaests, the poet actually keeps the three balls of iambic, trochaic, and anapaestic rhythm in the air all at the same time. (History, iii. 347) This analysis of ‘At a Month’s End’, from Poems and Ballads: Third Series, is the closest we ever get to a definition of karole. Although Saintsbury uses terminology taken from classical foot scansion to describe this form, this is utterly undone by the effect he is describing, since the overwhelming impression is of a rhythm composed of iambic, trochaic, and anapaestic feet all at once.37 That Saintsbury had this particular ‘measure’ in mind when writing about Atalanta is suggested in his footnotes, but also by his description of how Swinburne’s verse-hounds go ‘bounding and doubling’.38 This identification of the Atalanta chorus with the karole measure has consequences for how we choose to read, since, in identifying how the chorus of Atalanta exceeds foot scansion, Saintsbury appears to have anticipated Derek Attridge’s description of the English dol’nik by a century.39 For this reason, in talking about Swinburne’s verse, it makes much more sense to talk of duple and triple rhythm than to refer to ‘anapaests’, ‘iambs’, and ‘trochees’. Saintsbury’s remarks about the karole also point towards something larger about the structure of Atalanta. The play alternates between two metrical sets: the five-beat heroic line for the drama and dialogue, and the four-beat line (or karole) of the chorus. Shifts between metrical sets will always produce a strong impression. However, in placing these two particular metrical sets side by side, Swinburne has tapped a particularly English metrical tension, perhaps best captured by Attridge’s description of five-beat duple verse as an ‘evasion’ of the ‘stronger, and probably more fundamental, rhythmic principle’ he associates with four-beat triple verse. As Attridge notes: the ease with which the four-beat pattern is established means that it is sometimes experienced as a kind of sub-rhythm in the pentameter, imparting a little of its rhythmic insistence to the gentler line … But this is not to say that the four-beat rhythm is part of the pentameter’s structure, as has sometimes been claimed … it is precisely because the writer is free to make use of it as he wishes, or to avoid all suggestions of it, that it is a valuable rhythmic resource in five-beat verse.40 A better description of the basic prosodic principle of Atalanta in Calydon could not be found. From the opening line, readers are caught in a struggle between the four-beat, triple, insistent, catatonic obscurity of the chorus, which is forever threatening to overwhelm the five-beat, duple, crystal-clear speech-like rhythms of the dialogue. Once we connect this rediscovery of a native English tension to Swinburne’s claim for Atalanta as the ‘first poem of the sort in modern times, combining lyric and dramatic work on the old principle’, it becomes clear how Atalanta is placed in an established English tradition. For as Swinburne notes, in his letter to Lady Trevelyan and in his essay on Arnold: the construction of Greek plays in English on the basis of a tension between a four-beat lyric chorus and blank verse dialogue is in evidence in Milton’s Samson Agonistes, Landor’s Dramatic Sketches, Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound, and Arnold’s Empedocles at Etna – a tradition, by 1865, so established as to form a recognisable sub-genre. Yet Swinburne was never content to simply imitate his models. How should we understand Swinburne’s innovation in Atalanta? First, he divides the two metrical sets and the kinds of attention they promote into two discrete functions. He then allows the four-beat triple rhythm to interfere with the blank verse at precise moments. However, crucially, this split is also linked to two forms of attention: we ‘hear’ some things loud and clear, other things less so. There is a gathering sense of unease surrounding the half-heard content of the choral song. This song becomes gradually more audible as the play continues. To talk of a ‘sub-rhythm’ imparting rhythmic insistence is a flawed yet useful way to talk about what we undergo in the fourth choral ode. In this lies the secret of one of the most charged moments in the poem. However, in order to understand the force of this moment, we first need to understand the way in which – as Nicolson puts it – the metrical sets ‘cross and re-cross each other’. Swinburne’s combination of ‘lyric and dramatic work on an old principle’ is initially navigable in terms of a division between four-beat lines for the chorus and five-beat lines for the dialogue, a split in metrical set that is also experienced as a split between two modes of attending. We hear the chief huntsman’s prayer to Artemis, the mortal goddess, to grant the hunting of the boar ravaging Calydon success; but it takes serious effort to offer a summary of the first choral song, which celebrates the elapse of seasons in a ceaseless cycle of violence. We grasp the debate between Althæa and the chorus concerning the unjust nature of the gods, but we do not register the chorus’s apparent celebration of Althæa’s vision in the song ‘Before the Beginning of Years’, which seems an outworking of her previous argument of the futility of prayer: Night a black hound, follows the white fawn day, Swifter then dreams the white flown feet of sleep; Will ye pray back the night with any prayers?41 If Swinburne’s poem could be said to have characters – in the sense of individuals with a believable internal life – we might argue that there is something amiss here. The chorus affirms the power of prayer in its dialogue, yet in the interlude sings of the inevitability of grief, suffering, and death. That this contradiction entirely fails to register is evidence of the relative obscurity of Swinburne’s first two choruses. Robert Browning reputedly called Atalanta a ‘fuzz of words’.42 Ruskin writes of the poet ‘foam[ing] at the mouth’.43 Edmund Burne-Jones was more sensitive, describing how the rhythm ‘goes on with such a rush that it is enough to carry the world away’.44 This effect continued to trouble readers of Swinburne. Maurice Bowra writes that, ‘When we first read Atalanta, we may hardly notice the plot or the thought behind it, so overwhelming is the effect of the words, so strange the impression which they make’.45 Edward Thomas was far more candid: Atalanta, on first reading, ‘can hardly have been interesting, though it contains an interesting story which is probably revealed to the majority of readers by the [foregoing] argument alone’. However, Thomas qualifies this quip with an observation: ‘This story is obliterated by the form of a Greek drama, by abundant lyrics … by an exuberance and individuality of language which could not always transmit instantaneously a definite meaning. But the obscurity is not one of incompetence’.46 Emerging from the second choral song, we follow the debate between Meleager and his mother Althæa, on the nature of law – whether god-given or customary – and the affront to custom which Atalanta, as a maiden huntress who rejects love and motherhood, presents. Throughout the first half of Swinburne’s play, the ‘obscurity’ associated with the four-beat, triple verse of the choruses is ‘enchased’ – to borrow Swinburne’s description of the choruses of Empedocles at Etna – within the blank verse. The result is a perception of two styles: the song metre associated with the chorus, and the blank verse associated with the dialogue. Yet there is also a gradual, gathering sense of unease surrounding the half-heard content of the choral song. This begins to register around the third choral ode. The theme of the chorus’s song is, appropriately, love. However, this is no celebratory song, for in the allegory ‘love’ is accompanied by a young married couple called ‘fate’ and ‘death’. The reader who has been fighting to attend to the content of the chorus’s songs might well feel a sense of foreboding. However, the queasiness we feel on reading these lines has as much to do with what the chorus sings as it has with the way it sings it. The design of this choral ode falls into two stages. Following the blank verse dialogue section, we encounter ten extremely regular triple five-beat lines. This metre is odd. Following this, the four-beat line takes over and we slip back into the much faster, familiar metrical schema of ‘Before the Beginning of Years’, in which there are four beats per line, the last unrealised, and a strong tendency towards triple rhythm. But not before the oddness of the triple pentameter has had a chance to register (Poems, iv. 273-4). If we were initially unsure whether what we were hearing was a triple five-beat line or a combination of two four-beat lines, syntax will right us: there is no tendency to mark a central caesura with an off-beat, and the punctuation, especially in the first line, encourages regular runs of unstressed syllables. The four-beat line more usually associated with triple rhythm does eventually take over again. However, this does not cancel the sense that – for the first ten lines of the choral ode – we are pitched between two modes of attention. It is here that we realise, retrospectively, that the perception of two metrical sets was dependent on a third condition: that they should remain separate. By forcing the five-beat duple line towards triple rhythm while simultaneously holding open the line long enough for the swift four-beat line to become saddled with an extra beat, Swinburne pitches us between chorus and dialogue modes. Yet this breach of local expectations is only a partial explanation for the effect of this line. It is at this point that the different forms of attention mentioned above come into play at a conscious level: at the same time that we feel the clarity of blank verse slipping away, the chorus begins to sing a chant that explores the idea of love as pain. Since it follows Althæa’s speech to Meleager in which she counsels him against Atalanta, the chorus’s connection of love with fate and death constitutes a warning. We might therefore expect a little more clarity in the delivery. However, the metre now snaps back towards the more rhythmically insistent four-beat line, like the sound of waters closing around one’s head. Yet for a brief moment the triple five-beat line does achieve a counterpointing of these two previously opposite modes of attention. By allowing the more song-like triple rhythm, which we half-associate with violence, to appear in the five-beat line, which we associate with speech and dialogue, Swinburne succeeds in producing a new expectation: that the two different metrical modes experienced might not be so incommensurable. Viewed retrospectively, the third choral ode can appear pivotal. In the intervening third episode, the hunters prepare to leave. Althæa’s brothers Toxeus and Plexippus debate the transgressiveness of Atalanta joining them in pursuit of the boar ravaging Calydon – a charge to which she responds eloquently. Oeneus, Meleager’s father, again plays the role of arbiter, and urges the hunters to depart. The fourth choral ode takes up where Oeneus leaves off, with a song that explores the idea of speech. However, to focus on the plot is to miss the main event. The metrical and rhythmical shift that we experience here from dialogue to choral song marks a radical departure from anything encountered previously in the play: Who hath given man speech? or who has set therein A thorn for peril and a snare for sin? For in the word his life is and his breath, And in the word his death, That madness and the infatuate heart may breed From the word’s womb the deed And life bring one thing forth ere all pass by, Even one thing which is ours yet cannot die – Death. Hast thou seen him ever anywhere, Time’s twin-born brother, imperishable as he Is perishable and plaintive, clothed with care And mutable as sand, But death is strong and full of blood and fair And perdurable and like a lord of land    (Poems, iv. 284) The first line of the choral ode contains six stressed syllables, three on either side of the caesura, promoting the expectation of a new line to the chorus’s repertoire, perhaps composed of two four-beat lines, the last beat realised as a pause, strung together. Yet the slip-back experienced in the second, shorter line disappoints this. A third pentameter line troubles us, but is completed by a fourth shorter line again. The sense of disorientation, as we move from a line with six stresses, to a line with four, to five, to three, is underpinned by the couplet-rhyme, which forges a sense of difference in similarity caused by the see-sawing between short and long lines. The alternation between full pentameter lines culminating in duple lines of shorter length continues for another couplet, before lines 7 and 8, in which the full five-beat iambic line is established. This receives tentative confirmation at the tenth line quoted, when the speech-like clarity of the question, ‘Hast thou seen him ever anywhere[?]’, affirms the reader’s suspicion that this is duple, five-beat verse. However, it is not until the tenth line quoted that we realise that a reversal of expectations has taken place. Instead of the four-beat line, which had dominated the choral songs until the third choral ode, the fourth choral ode is in five-beat. Yet the foregoing confusion, the toing and froing between the full line and the hemistich, has also awoken us to the possibility that this five-beat line might contain within it shorter units. This is demonstrated by the syntactical construction of the ninth line quoted. Though the word ‘Death’ is metrically part of this line, the unusual caesura, after the first position, means that the question with which the next sentence begins gives the impression of an independent line, or a line of four stresses. Attridge, as quoted above, suggests that the four-beat rhythm is sometimes experienced as a kind of ‘sub-rhythm’ in the pentameter. The technique of Swinburne’s choral ode promotes that experience, by shuttling between short and long lines, by syntax, but also by means of alliteration and monosyllabic diction. Though the tenth and eleventh lines quoted are indisputably iambic in character, the combination of alliteration – which often coincides with stress – and the central caesura means that we read four stresses on ‘per’sh-’, ‘plain-’, ‘cloth-’, ‘care’. If the first strophe of this chorus is anything to judge by, Swinburne’s tendency towards four-beat pentameter lines is in the ascendant. Attridge’s critical metaphor of the four-beat line as sub-rhythm is again useful when trying to describe the reversal of expectations that the fourth choral ode presents. The separation of lyric and dramatic elements is no longer tenable. Instead, the lyric rhythm appears to register in the pentameter, but in such a way and at such a point in the action as to suggest that it has always been there, hidden within even the most speech-like sections. This reversal is registered in Lafourcade’s description. This is the only ode that he characterises as comprising ‘iambes et anapestes’ instead of ‘anapestes et iambes’. However, the shift receives no further comment.47 Saintsbury calls this fourth choral section ‘a ‘greater Ode’ of the best and most serious kind’ (History, iii. 336). Though his appeal to the Pindaric ode, a mode characterised in English by eccentric changes in metre and rhyme scheme, is apt, Saintsbury’s description of this ode as ‘mainly iambic’ – again suggesting the limits of foot scansion – requires expansion: though it does display a great number of duple, five-beat lines, Swinburne’s poem is so resolutely various that at times the experience of the sub-rhythm within the pentameter holds sway long enough for it to seem almost established. The sense of a more rhythmically insistent, fundamental rhythm erupting within the pentameter – the line that comes closest to everyday speech – would be powerfully effective in any setting. However, it is especially so within the cumulative, symphonic schema of Atalanta, a fact that is demonstrated by one of the most charged moments in the poem. However they choose to account for the significance of Atalanta, readers and critics tend to agree that the line ‘the supreme evil, God’ presents a particularly forceful moment. The contemporary reviewer for the Spectator speaks of ‘Titanic bursts of mingled despair and wrath’.48 Samuel Chew refers to it as an ‘extremity of defiance’.49 Douglas Bush called it ‘that tremendous climax of blasphemy’.50 H. A. Hargreaves, who takes Swinburne’s line as the title for his article, describes a ‘jarring element’.51 Alan P. Barr summarises over a hundred years of readers’ reactions when he describes this as ‘the best-known and perhaps most startling verse in the poem’.52 This line, which occurs at the end of the sixth strophe of the ode, presents one of the most complex pieces of theological reasoning in the play. Yet its force cannot be explained with reference to the argument alone. Instead, the associational attributes that have been allowed to build up, combined with the fact that the less obscure, duple rhythm allows us to hear the chorus’s song loud and clear for the first time, mean that we are primed to interpret this line in a particular way. For now we know not of them; but one saith The gods are gracious, praising God; and one, When hast thou seen? or hast thou felt his breath Touch, nor consume thine eyelids as the sun, Nor fill thee to the lips with fiery death? None hath beheld him, none Seen above other gods and shapes of things, Swift without feet and flying without wings, Intolerable, not clad with death or life, Insatiable, not known of night or day, The lord of love and loathing and of strife Who gives a star and takes a sun away; Who shapes the soul, and makes her a barren wife To the earthly body and grievous growth of clay; Who turns the large limbs to a little flame And binds the great sea with a little sand; Who makes desire, and slays desire with shame; Who shakes the heaven as ashes in his hand; Who, seeing the light and shadow for the same, Bids day waste night as fire devours a brand, Smites without sword, and scourges without rod; The supreme evil, God.   (Poems, iv. 287) Up until now this choral ode has shown a high incidence of lines performed with fewer than five stresses. The re-establishment of five beats per line at the beginning of this strophe is therefore somewhat unusual. However, this strophe proves very much more than a metrical exercise: at ‘Swift without feet…’ we are again tipped into a line in which only four stresses sound. For ten lines we hear the chorus denouncing the cruelty of the gods, but although we know this is supposed to be a five-beat line (which reasserts itself in ‘The lord of love…’), the frequent compulsion to perform only four stresses per line pushes the pentameter a long way towards song rhythm. This pull towards four stresses is partly enforced by the syntax and repetition. ‘Who gives a star and takes a sun away’ is a pentameter – but its monosyllabic character, and the fact of syntactical repetition of the lines which precede it, ask that we attend to those elements in the utterance which describe the gods’ control, which emphasise the verb and its objects – which number four. It is as if we are half-choosing, half-giving way to the underlying four-beat rhythm that we associate with the choral song. The reader’s sense of a gathering tension peaks at the line ‘Smites without sword, and scourges without rod’ – which is syntactically and alliteratively arranged so as to tip us towards the utterance of four, and not five, stresses. This in itself would not be enough to suggest the impulsive, dancing measure associated with the first choral ode – there are many lines in this ode which sound nothing like ‘When the hounds of spring are on winter’s traces’. However, Swinburne was not dubbed a ‘prosodist magician’ by Saintsbury for nothing. Here, in the penultimate line, by an expert arrangement set in motion by the strong syllable falling on the verb in the first position, and underpinned by the central caesura, Swinburne is able to create two runs of two or more unstressed syllables. The result is a line containing four stresses again, but with a distinct swing to it, which we can trace to the recurrence of two or more unstressed syllables at the beginning of lines. This line is still recognisable as a line of iambic pentameter, albeit sprung.53 Yet read within the context of Swinburne’s play, it appears as if this pentameter has been overtaken by the song-measure of the chorus. This rising penultimate line speeds the reader up and over the line break – and rises, via an anapaest, launching into a trochee, metamorphosing into an iamb, the last ictus finally terminating the couplet in a rhyme: ‘The supreme evil, God’. Saintsbury was right to note how ‘the poet actually keeps the three balls of iambic, trochaic, and anapaestic rhythm in the air all at the same time’ (History, iii. 347) – but Saintsbury was commenting on the fluidity of the karole, ‘common measure’, or a four-beat line. To call this last line a flourish would be an understatement: rhythmically, it is the most charged line in the entire play. The effect of this concurrence of expectations, associations, and sheer technical finesse is a curious one. What we appear to be undergoing here is a kind of rhythmic anagnorisis. The painful truth of the matter – the futility of prayer in the face of the fact that human beings are subject to the whims of the gods – is explicable without the rhythmic schema of the play, while simultaneously appearing to gain everything from it. From this point on the experience of speed, and of lines with fewer than five stresses – song-like, daydream-inducing, jubilantly violent – will be connected with the will of the unjust gods. And yet, since this painful revelation is entirely dependent upon the build-up and confirmation of previous rhythmic expectations and associations, the line confirms something we have suspected all along. Nietzsche, in his discussion of the dithyramb, speaks of an analogous moment in Greek tragedy in which the ‘living wall’ of the chorus is broken down through the stimulation of the ‘symbolic faculties’, through movement, dance, and rhythm. This comes very close to describing how Swinburne’s poem works. He understands how a symbolic force such as rhythm depends, for its effectiveness, on recognition. Yet Nietzsche’s sense of the role that ‘self-abandonment’ might play in relation to such music is also an apt description of what feels so dangerous about Swinburne’s chorus. We had given ourselves over to the pleasures of the rhythm, without attending to the wisdom it contained. It is only in the fourth choral ode, when the Dionysian rhythm appears contained within the Apollonian line, that we are able to understand both the force of that rhythm, and to hear for ourselves the wisdom of Silenus. This realisation is astonishing, implicating, but also full of horror. For this hint of an irresistible force behind speech has been hunting the reader from the opening lines. From the time the second messenger arrives with news that Meleager is dying, the eruption of triple rhythm merely confirms the sense that this rhythm has come to mean ineluctable fate. Yet this phrase ‘come to mean’ seems inadequate to an encounter with Swinburne’s tragedy. To suggest that rhythm and will might be close associates is to rationalise, and in doing so reduce, an aesthetic encounter. Jerome McGann offers the fullest account of this aspect of Swinburne’s style, suggesting the importance of Baudelaire’s 1861 article ‘Richard Wagner et Tannhäuser à Paris’ to Swinburne’s early development as a poet. Baudelaire sent Swinburne a presentation copy of this essay in 1863, partly in thanks for Swinburne’s 1862 review in the Spectator of the Fleurs du Mal. McGann notes how Baudelaire and Wagner stressed the importance of dramatic form (in particular the form of Greek drama), of mythic content, and of an inner musical structure based on the melodic transformation of key motifs.54 McGann argues that ‘Anactoria’ was ‘the first poem Swinburne consciously constructed on his new prosodic scheme’. However, the extracts from Franz Liszt’s book on Wagner that Baudelaire quotes seem more relevant to a reading of Atalanta than to Swinburne’s first mature attempt at couplets. Baudelaire notes how: The spectator, forewarned and willing to forgo those unrelated passages which, cogged to each other along the thread of some plot, form the substance of our usual operas, will find it strangely interesting to follow throughout three acts the profoundly studied, astonishingly skilful and poetically intelligible arrangement with which Wagner, by means of several leading musical phrases, has tightened the melodic knot which constitutes his whole drama. The turns that these phrases make, clinging to and intertwined with the words of the poem, create an effect that is deeply moving.55 This extract, quoted and italicised by Baudelaire, is taken from Liszt’s book on Wagner, yet it might have been written about Atalanta. Liszt’s sense of the way in which Wagner’s opera is driven by something other than character or plot, the ‘strangely interesting’ way in which rhythmic movements come to be associated with a theme or feeling, the construction of the play around this ‘melodic knot’, and the unusual amount of attention required to puzzle it out – all ring true to the experience of reading Swinburne. Swinburne’s copy of Baudelaire’s essay, sold at auction in 1916 to Arthur Symons, is not extant. However, were we able to show Swinburne underlining and commenting on these passages, it is unlikely that we would be any closer to proving that a causal link exists between Wagner’s principle of musical construction and Swinburne’s first attempt at a Greek tragedy in English. What remains most suggestive in McGann’s account is the analogy it provides for thinking about what it is like to read Atalanta. In this direction, Baudelaire’s description of the intensity of Wagner might have been written of Atalanta: ‘Everything that is implied in the words: will, desire, concentration, nervous intensity, explosion is felt and is sensed in his works’.56 Swinburne recognised a similar quality in the poets he most admired. In his Essay on William Blake (1868), he rejects the idea that art must have a moral, arguing that: the shape or style of workmanship each artist is bound to look to, whether or no he may choose to trouble himself about the moral or other bearings of his work. This principle, which makes the manner of doing a thing the essence of the thing done, the purpose or result of it the accident, thus reversing the principle of moral or material duty, must inevitably expose art to the condemnation of the other party.57 Atalanta, like Wagner’s Tannhäuser, convinces us of the power of music to mean. In this sense, Swinburne’s poem also overturns the Socratic expectation, which Nietzsche outlines in The Birth of Tragedy, that in order to be beautiful a thing must be intelligible. It is in this sense that we might understand Saintsbury’s judgement of Atalanta as a renouveau of English prosody. In its heroic effort to move and think and feel through a repertoire fast becoming thought of as ‘traditional’, it is truly untimely. Yet in pushing the affective capacities of rhythm and metre further, he also put the question that later generations would answer. It is impossible to understand how much Pound and Eliot owe to Swinburne, or how impossible a poem like The Waste Land would be without Atalanta, without first understanding the lengths to which Swinburne went in his pursuit of the question: How can rhythm mean? Footnotes My thanks are due to Michael Hurley, Francis O’Gorman, and Jerome J. McGann. For his rigour, criticism, and support throughout my Ph.D. research, which anticipates this essay, I remain grateful to Simon Jarvis. My research was enabled by an AHRC grant. 1 Douglas Oliver, Poetry and Narrative in Performance (Basingstoke, 1989), p. 112. 2 Clive Scott, The Poetics of French Verse (Oxford, 1998), p. 98. 3 Baxandall’s subtle allusion to the section on the ‘Fetish of the Commodity and Its Secret’ in Marx’s Capital is suggestive of how the subjective may come to seem objective by the mediating power of the social; see Capital, trans. Ben Fowkes (1976), i. 165. Cf Peter de Bolla’s argument that it is the communal aspect of aesthetic experience that produces the ‘particular amalgam’ of a claim is at once subjective and objective in nature in Art Matters (Cambridge, Mass., 2001), p. 10. 4 Michael Baxandall, Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy (Oxford, 1988), p. 29. 5 George Saintsbury, A History of English Prosody from the Twelfth Century to the Present Day, 3 vols. (1906-10), iii. 513. References to History are to volume and page number of this edition. 6 Most recently in Meredith Martin’s identification of his refusal ‘to engage with the complexity of English meter and, by extension, English poetry’s role as a stabilising, patriotic force in national culture’: The Rise and Fall of Meter: Poetry and English National Culture, 1860-1930 (Princeton, 2012), p. 103. For an alternative account of Saintsbury’s contribution which has been important for my argument see Michael Hurley, ‘George Saintsbury’s History of English Prosody’, E in C, 60/4 (2010), 336-60. 7 When, for example, Saintsbury notes an advantage for the reader who reads ‘scanningly’, I understand that he argues that how a line moves can be more readily reflected upon for those who have previous experience of colometry (dividing up lines into feet) rather than because they have access to a special kind of experience, as Martin appears to suggest (The Rise and Fall of Meter, pp. 100-1). His emphasis is on the reader’s previous experience of reflection, rather than on a first-order experience of reading. 8 Nicolson, Swinburne (1926), pp. 91-2. 9 Samuel C. Chew, Swinburne (Boston, 1929), p. 59. 10 M. K. Louis, ‘Wise Words and Wild Words: The Problem of Language in Swinburne’s “Atalanta”’, Victorian Poetry, 25/1 (1987), p. 45; Richard Mathews, ‘Heart’s Love and Heart’s Division: The Quest for Unity in “Atalanta in Calydon”’, Victorian Poetry, 9/1-2 (1971), p. 46. 11 Nicolson, Swinburne, p. 86. 12 Marion Weir, ‘The Influence of Aeschylus and Euripides on the Structure and Content of Swinburne’s Atalanta in Calydon and Erechtheus’ (Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 1920); C. M. Bowra, The Romantic Imagination (1950; Oxford, 1995), pp. 221-44; Alan P. Barr, ‘The Irony of Swinburne’s Atalanta in Calydon’, Victorian Poetry, 51/1 (2013), 1-13. 13 Georges Lafourcade, La Jeunesse de Swinburne (1837-1867), 2 vols. (Oxford, 1928), ii. 408-10. 14 Orla Polten, ‘Swinburne’s “Atalanta in Calydon”: Prosody as Sublimation in Victorian “Greek” Tragedy’, Classical Receptions Journal, 9/3 (July 2017), 331-49. 15 Herbert Tucker, Epic: Britain’s Heroic Muse 1790-1910 (Oxford, 2012), p. 556. 16 Thomas L. Wymer, ‘Swinburne’s Tragic Vision in “Atalanta in Calydon”’, Victorian Poetry, 9/1-2 (1971), p. 1. 17 Mathews, ‘Heart’s Love and Heart’s Division’, p. 35. 18 Katie Paterson, ‘“Much Regrafted Pain”: Schopenhauerian Love and the Fecundity of Pain in “Atalanta in Calydon”’, Victorian Poetry, 47/4 (2009), p. 717. 19 Jerome J. McGann, Swinburne: An Experiment in Criticism (Chicago, 1972), p. 104. 20 More recently, McGann has described Atalanta as one of a number of poems that present a ‘major shift’ in Swinburne’s work after he read Baudelaire’s essay ‘Richard Wagner et Tannhäuser à Paris’ in 1863. However, though his exploration of Swinburne’s ideas of ‘harmony’ in relation to those ideas of Wagner remains suggestive, this essay is only tangentially concerned with Atalanta. See McGann, ‘Wagner, Baudelaire, Swinburne: Poetry in the Condition of Music’, Victorian Poetry, 47/4 (2009), 619-32. 21 Ibid., p. 619. 22 ‘A term still used, but becoming archaic … [for] the new season, spring’: Emile Littré (ed.), Dictionnaire de la langue française (accessed 19 July 2015); <http://artflsrv02.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/dicos/pubdico1look.pl?strippedhw=renouveau>. 23 Rikky Rooksby, A. C. Swinburne: A Poet’s Life (Farnham, 1997), p. 111. 24 The Letters of Algernon Charles Swinburne, ed. Edmund Gosse and T. J. Wise (New York, 1919), i. 30-1. 25 Quoted in James I. Porter, Nietzsche and the Philology of the Future (Stanford, 2000), p. 28. 26 Richard Monckton Milnes, ‘Atalanta in Calydon: A Tragedy’, The Edinburgh Review (July 1865), p. 205. 27 The Swinburne Letters, ed. Cecil Y. Lang (New Haven, 1959), i. 21. 28 William Rutland, Swinburne: A Nineteenth-Century Hellene (Oxford, 1931), p. 2. 29 Yisrael Levin, Swinburne’s Apollo: Myth, Faith and Victorian Spirituality (Farnham, 2013), p. 133. 30 Letters, ed. Gosse and Wise, i. 248. 31 Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations, trans. R. J. Hollingdale, ed. Daniel Breazeale (Cambridge, 1997), p. 60. 32 Undergraduate Papers: An Oxford Journal (1857-1858), ed. Thomas Hill Green, John Nichol, Algernon Charles Swinburne, and others. Facsimile reproduction with an introduction by Francis Jacques Sypher (Delmar, NY, 1974), p. 175. 33 Matthew Arnold, Complete Prose Works (Ann Arbor, 1960), i. 63. 34 Swinburne, Essays and Studies (1875), p. 162. 35 ‘les chœurs de Swinburne sont d’une irrégularité complète, ou se bornent à répéter plusieurs fois la même forme en une série de strophes identiques, comme il arrive parfois chez les Grecs dans certains chants d’acteurs, mais jamais dans les chœurs véritables’. Lafourcade, Le Jeunesse de Swinburne, ii. 408; my translation. 36 D. S. Carne-Ross, full of praise for Swinburne’s Greek translations and poems, remakes the case for an English equivalent to Greek quantity, arguing that stress and quantity ‘coincide’, but provides no examples to test this (Carne-Ross, Classics and Translation: Essays, ed. Kenneth Haynes (Lewisburg, Pa., 2010), p. 40). D. W. Harding finds that his description of Swinburne’s ‘familiar swing’ in terms derived from classical scansion will only get him so far, and gives up: to ‘speak of a mixed iambic-anapaestic metre may specify the ingredients of the mixture but not their proportions nor the order in which they come’ (Harding, Words into Rhythm: English Speech Rhythm in Verse and Prose (Cambridge, 2010), p. 41). Polten suggests a link between Swinburne’s epigraph, Euripides’ Andromache, and Swinburne’s final kommos. However, the lack of direct link between elegiac couplets and the kommos itself (which actually bears more of a resemblance to the final chorus of Arnold’s Empedocles at Etna, which Swinburne admired), combined with Swinburne’s sense that English poetry cannot support two consecutive stressed syllables (as her scansion suggests it must) and his intense dislike of Euripides, means that this argument remains speculative at best (Polten, ‘Swinburne’s “Atalanta in Calydon”’, p. 340). 37 Derek Attridge, ‘The Case for the English Dolnik; or, How Not to Introduce Prosody’, Poetics Today, 33/1 (2012), p. 7. 38 Commenting on the second chorus ‘Before the Beginning of Years’, Saintsbury appends a note in which he links this perception of ‘elasticity combined with form … to those on “At a Month’s End”’ (History, iii. 36). 39 Saintsbury’s classical training meant that it would take until 2012 – forty years after Derek Attridge pioneered beat scansion as a system for describing prosodic effects – for the dol’nik form to receive a full description as follows: ‘(1) the number of syllables varies from line to line; the number of beats per line – four – is unchanging; (2) there is some freedom in the disposition of stressed and unstressed syllables, in contrast to stricter forms that control the number of syllables as well as beats; (3) the large majority of stressed syllables are felt as beats, and the large majority of unstressed syllables are felt as offbeats (or elements in offbeats); (4) if a syllable that normally does not carry a strong emphasis, like the first syllable of under, is treated as a beat, the forceful rhythm encourages the reader to give it some additional weight; (5) beats can be omitted and experienced silently under very particular conditions; offbeats between beats can be omitted with slightly more freedom (neither of these omissions occurs in this poem); (6) only rarely do more than two syllables make up the offbeat between the beats – the norm is to vary between one and two, to produce single and double offbeats; (7) lines can begin and end on a beat or an offbeat; (8) the disposition of the different types of offbeat is such as to enhance the strength of the rhythm; (9) there are no feet’. For a full discussion see Attridge, ‘The Case for the English Dolnik’, p. 7 and passim. 40 Derek Attridge, The Rhythms of English Poetry (1982), p. 143. 41 The Poems of Algernon Charles Swinburne, 5 vols. (1905-6), iv. 251. Further references are given in the text. 42 Quoted in Edward Thomas, Algernon Charles Swinburne: A Critical Study (1912), p. 23. I have been unable to trace the source of this quotation. 43 The Correspondence of John Ruskin and Charles Eliot Norton, ed. John Lewis Bradley and Ian Ousby (Cambridge, 1987), p. 157. 44 Quoted in Georgiana Burne-Jones, Memorials of Edward Burne-Jones, introd. John Christian, 2 vols. (1993), ii. 190. 45 Bowra, The Romantic Imagination, p. 235. 46 Thomas, Algernon Charles Swinburne: A Critical Study, 12. 47 Lafourcade, La Jeunesse de Swinburne, ii. 409. 48 ‘Atalanta in Calydon’, The Spectator, 15 Apr. 1865, p. 16. 49 Chew, Swinburne, p. 62. 50 Douglas Bush, Mythology and the Romantic Tradition in English Poetry (Cambridge, 1937), p. 340. 51 H. A. Hargreaves, ‘Swinburne’s Greek Plays and God, “The Supreme Evil”’, Modern Language Notes, 76/7 (Nov. 1961), 607-16: 607. 52 Barr, ‘The Irony of Swinburne’s Atalanta in Calydon’, p. 12. 53 For a discussion of the ‘sprung pentameter’, see William Keach, Shelley’s Style (New York, 1984), p. 162; Attridge, The Rhythms of English Poetry, pp. 353-5. 54 McGann, ‘Wagner, Baudelaire, Swinburne’, p. 626. 55 ‘Richard Wagner et Tannhäuser à Paris’, in Baudelaire as a Literary Critic, introd. and trans. Lois Boe Hyslop and Francis E. Hyslop Jr. (Pennsylvania, 1964), p. 217. 56 Ibid., p. 223. 57 Swinburne, William Blake: A Critical Essay (1868), pp. 88-9. © The Author(s) [2018]. Published by Oxford University Press; all rights reserved.

Journal

Essays in CriticismOxford University Press

Published: Jan 1, 2018

There are no references for this article.

You’re reading a free preview. Subscribe to read the entire article.


DeepDyve is your
personal research library

It’s your single place to instantly
discover and read the research
that matters to you.

Enjoy affordable access to
over 18 million articles from more than
15,000 peer-reviewed journals.

All for just $49/month

Explore the DeepDyve Library

Search

Query the DeepDyve database, plus search all of PubMed and Google Scholar seamlessly

Organize

Save any article or search result from DeepDyve, PubMed, and Google Scholar... all in one place.

Access

Get unlimited, online access to over 18 million full-text articles from more than 15,000 scientific journals.

Your journals are on DeepDyve

Read from thousands of the leading scholarly journals from SpringerNature, Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford University Press and more.

All the latest content is available, no embargo periods.

See the journals in your area

DeepDyve

Freelancer

DeepDyve

Pro

Price

FREE

$49/month
$360/year

Save searches from
Google Scholar,
PubMed

Create lists to
organize your research

Export lists, citations

Read DeepDyve articles

Abstract access only

Unlimited access to over
18 million full-text articles

Print

20 pages / month

PDF Discount

20% off